Home > Uncategorized > Will Senate Draw a Line on Christie rollbacks? DEP Budget Up Tomorrow.

Will Senate Draw a Line on Christie rollbacks? DEP Budget Up Tomorrow.

Tomorrow, the DEP budget is up before the Senate Budget Committee.

Senators Bob Smith and Barbara Buono, both strong pro-environment Dems, sit on that Committee.

There has been plenty of public opposition and media coverage of Christie’s environmental cuts and policy rollbacks – so surely there is no lack of information for the Committee to work with.

In a March 19 Star Ledger story on Christie’s $300 million cuts to clean energy funds, Senator Smith vowed to fight:

Bob Smith, chairman of the Legislature’s environment and energy committee, and a member of the appropriations committee, has vowed to fight the governor over the RGGI funds and the Clean Energy Fund, which the governor appropriated last month.

“The question that will come back to me and the other policymakers will be how can we justify raiding this fund when there are much better alternatives. We should continue for at least another year with higher income taxes on our wealthier residents,” said Smith, who is a vocal advocate for economic stimulus through green jobs.

Similarly, while Senator Buono sat on the so called “bi-partisan” “Red Tape Review Group”, she recently strongly distanced herself from the Report’s recommendations. According to the April 19 Star Ledger:

The report, released shortly before 11 a.m., says the group had “arrived at a series of unanimous recommendations” — but omits Buono’s name from the cover sheet.

Asked about the omission, Buono said she raised concerns after receiving the language of proposed legislation last week but was told the group wanted to present a united report.

“It’s just unanimity at any cost, even if it means being dishonest,” she said. “Bipartisanship is very different than strong-arming consensus.”

Today’s Bergen Record editorial “Red Tape and Fresh Water“, blasts the Report’s recommendation for the Highlands:

“The state must achieve a better balance between protecting the public and nurturing free enterprise,” the Red Tape Review authors write.

That may well be. But that does not mean the state can abdicate its responsibility to public health. Safe drinking water is a right and necessity. Protecting an area that provides potable water to more than 4 million people is paramount.

Similarly, in a strongly worded April 16 editorial; “Aiding economy not DEP’s job“, the Asbury Park Press blasted DEP Commissioner Martin for his views on DEP’s role in economic development and his plans for creating a new Assistant Commissioner for economic development:

Now and then, some public official will say things that make the attentive listener go, “Whoa! That doesn’t sound quite right. Does this guy understand his job?”

The most recent example to come out of the Christie administration is found in the musings of Bob Martin, the new commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection. …

The DEP’s job is to protect and preserve the environment, not to insert itself into questions of the economic issues involved. That’s for other state policymakers to address. It is much too early to form any judgments on how Martin will do on the job. But some of his statements thus far should give those who care about New Jersey’s environment real pause.

Will there be a showdown on environmental policy tomorrow?

Let’s hope the Senate Dems rise to the challenge.

And if they are searching for some bi-partisan cover, they should consider the history of the last time we were at a similar juncture, where budget cuts and regulatory rollbacks went too far. At that time, in a May 16, 1996 letter, seven (7) Senate Republicans from her own party opposed Governor Whitman budget cuts:

Trenton, NJ, May 16, 1996.

State of New Jersey
State House CN-001
Trenton, NJ 08625–0001.


Among all the responsibilities of government, there are few of greater importance, or of more concern to the public than the protection of New Jersey’s environment and the quality of public health. We know that protecting these important concerns, and carrying out these responsibilities through appropriate State actions and support is a priority you share with the Legislature and the general public. It is in recognition of that shared commitment to protecting New Jersey’s environment and public health that we write to you today.

We are greatly concerned that your proposed budget for fiscal year 1997 does not adequately provide the necessary resources to State government to meet the environmental challenges facing the State. This is especially true in the proposed funding for the Department of Environmental Protection.

The proposed budget would require dramatic reductions in scientific, technical and human resources critical to the mission of the Department. In a State facing the environmental issues New Jersey does, we need to respond aggressively to the challenges of insuring that our air is safe to breath, the water safe to drink or the empty lot next door safe to play in. It is highly questionable as to whether the Department will maintain the requisite expertise and resources under the fiscal year 1997 budget proposal to answer these questions and respond in a way protective of public health and the environment.

We are also concerned that the proposed reduction in resources will not fulfill the new approaches to environmental protection. The successful implementation of the initiatives under discussion will require additional resources above and beyond those currently available to the DEP. Many of the ‘‘reengineering’’ initiatives being undertaken by the Department will be fundamentally handicapped by the proposed reductions in resources contained in the current budget proposal.

Due to these concerns we feel that it is important that you be aware we may not be able to support this budget proposal, should it come before the Senate in its current form The historical erosion of staffing at the Department experienced over past budget cycles cannot be continued because the environmental goals we have outlined above will not be attainable.

We feel strongly that the proposed layoffs of DEP personnel will negatively impact the Department’s ability to effectively safeguard the environment and protect public health. Therefore, we cannot support a final DEP budget which contains employee layoffs.

We are, of course, committed to working with you to restore the resources we feel are necessary to carry out the critical functions of the Department of Environmental

We feel that it is very possible to identity appropriate resources, sources of funding and approaches to achieve this, and we ask for the opportunity to explore these with you and your staff.

Respectfully yours,
Senate Majority Leader.
President Pro Tempore.

We’ll keep you posted.

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