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Op-Ed: Vote Yes on Public Question 2 for Clean Water, Preserving Quality of Life

The means to establish a stable source of funding for open-space and farmland preservation is a vote away

edward potosnak
Edward Potosnak

New Jersey voters have the opportunity this Election Day to make the profound choice to vote yes to protect clean drinking water and quality of life in the Garden State for generations to come.

Unfortunately, rather than spending their time protecting New Jersey’s environment, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and its surrogates are spreading misinformation about Public Question 2, the best and only opportunity to ensure stable funding for the now-depleted Green Acres, Blue Acres, farmland, and historic preservation programs.

The current corporate business tax (CBT) funding formula is out of date and being misused by the NJDEP to cover salaries. The constitution is not the best place to dedicate salaries and Question 2 fixes an endemic problem, putting more revenue into projects throughout the state that preserve our land and safeguard our clean water. Additionally, passage of Question 2 will help improve public health by reducing our exposure to cancer-causing chemicals and pollutants.

New Jersey voters need to know the facts, including that Public Question 2 is supported by the state’s leading environmental and preservation organizations, including the NJ League of Conservation Voters, the NJ Sierra Club, and the more than 185 conservation, agricultural, and historic preservation groups that make up NJ Keep It Green. That should speak volumes to voters concerned about protecting New Jersey’s land and water.

A yes vote on Question 2 will dedicate a small portion of existing tax revenues to open space, farmland, historic preservation, and other critical environmental programs, with no tax increase. There will be net increase in dedicated funding for preservation and environmental protection when the percentage of existing CBT revenues dedicated for these purposes increases from the current 4 percent to 6 percent in 2019.

Seventy-one percent of the dedicated funds will be allocated to Green Acres, Blue Acres, farmland and historic preservation, and the remainder to DEP programs currently funded through the CBT including watershed management, brownfields, underground storage tank removal, and public cleanups of polluted sites.

However, funding levels will grow over time when the percentage increases in 2019, and as corporate business tax revenues grow.

A report by the NJ Chamber of Commerce found that CBT revenues grew by an average of 2.3 percent annually over the most recent 10-year period. The dedication of CBT funds to open-space and environmental programs is a modest and fiscally responsible investment in New Jersey’s future. The dedication is a smart, efficient, and effective method of providing stable, long-term funding to protect critical resources.

An NJDEP report documented the need to preserve an additional 650,000 acres to protect natural and water resources. Unfortunately, the NJDEP never came forward with a plan to accomplish that. A yes vote on Question 2 provides stable funds to invest in the preservation of land and water resources that are essential to the health of New Jersey’s economy and communities.

Despite false claims to the contrary, parks would continue to be funded under Question 2. The Green Acres program has helped to create and improve more than 1,100 parks in every county of the state, including nearly $30 million spent on Liberty State Park alone, the crown jewel of the system. Furthermore, the first-ever stewardship provision included in Question 2 will ensure funds are set aside to improve and restore parks and preserved lands, including capital improvements to state parks currently funded under the CBT.

Open-space preservation in New Jersey has enjoyed strong bi-partisan support for decades. Question 2 is no different and has broad bipartisan support in the New Jersey Legislature and public opinion polls. Question 2 is a constitutional dedication of funds because it is the only way to ensure that funds go directly to the programs identified, and can’t be raided.

Providing stable, long-term funding for open-space, farmland, historic preservation and important environmental programs is in the voters’ hands this Election Day. The New Jersey League of Conservation Voters urges all voters to vote yes on Question 2 to protect New Jersey’s land and clean water for future generations.

Ed Potosnak is executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters.

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