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February 23, 2011

When is a budget cut not a budget cut? Apparently, when you conduct bond refinancing on debt service. In his budget address Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie told the state legislature that he was cutting the Department of Environmental Protection by 10 percent, immediately causing cries of concern.

But state DEP commissioner Bob Martin issued a memo to staff saying the budget cut was an illusion, and that DEP funding, once debt service is excluded, is up 5.3 percent.

The increases include a restoration of $6.2 million in parks funding over last year, and increase of $17 million in the portion of the corporate business tax dedicated to environmental spending. He said there would be no program cuts or layoffs.

But the devil is in the details. Late yesterday, environmentalists were already complaining about cuts in recycling funds and reductions in enforcement fines against polluters.

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