Home > Uncategorized > Christie Budget Slashes DEP by 10% – Subsidies to Polluters; More Burden on Taxpayers

Christie Budget Slashes DEP by 10% – Subsidies to Polluters; More Burden on Taxpayers

[Update 3 – this is getting tedious, Dave Pringle forwarded DEP Commissioner Martin’s email to DEP staffers, which we print in full as it begs the question about why the Governor would create a false impression of deep cuts at DEP:

>>> Commissioner 2/22/2011 3:56:02 PM >>>
The Governor’s budget for Fiscal Year 2012 is all good news for the DEP. 
Due entirely to savings on DEP’s debt service through bond refunding, interest earnings and cost-cutting, you may have heard relative to Governor Christie’s budget address this afternoon that the DEP budget is being cut by 9.8%.  These savings on debt service do not affect any projects, programs, staffing or operations.  In fact, DEP funding excluding debt service is up 5.3%, from $329.2 million to $346.9 million.

Current DEP staffing levels will be maintained.  There are NO layoffs planned and NO attrition numbers assumed in this budget.  

I am pleased that $6.2 million in Parks funding is being restored from the State’s General Fund, and all of our State Parks will remain open.

DEP also is receiving a major bump in CBT (corporate business tax) money–a more than $17 million increase over last year.  FY12 increases are:
Watershed Management  $2.6 million
Site Remediation Program Administration  $1.5 million
Grants in Aid-Diesel Retrofits  $2.9 million
Capital-Parks Development  $2.6 million
Capital-Site Remediation  $3.3 million
Capital-EDA Brownfields (HDSRF) and UST $4.3 million
TOTAL  =  $17,415,000

In addition, funding for the Pinelands Commission and the Palisades Interstate Park Commission will continue at the same level as last year, and Highlands Commission funding is being increased by $463,000.  Green Acres monies are intact and funding will continue as scheduled.

While the topline numbers may look like DEP’s budget is being trimmed, it’s all debt service reduction, and in fact we will have more program dollars in FY12. There are no program cuts and no staffing cuts.  The Governor’s budget demonstrates his recognition of DEP’s transformation efforts and his continued commitment to protect New Jersey’s natural resources.  [end update3]

[Update 2 – Dave Pringle just provided me with the more detailed  Governor’s FY 2012 Budget Summary.

Although Governor Christie stated in his budget address that DEP budget was cut 10%, I could not find that cut in the actual budget document.

Dave suggests that that number deals with debt service so is not relevant and that DEP programs were basically held harmless. I don’t disagree with that assessment.  In fact, the only problems I could find are (based on quick review):

  • looks like a $38 million cut in fee/fine revenue (Schedule 1, page 106). This shifts burden from polluters to taxpayers, so that concern still stands.
  • a new $1.425 million to “Support economic development” 
  • looks like the Recycling Fund was raided by $20 million
  • looks like the No Net Loss Reforestation fund was raided by $4.4 million
  • looks like only $10 million was stolen from the Clean Energy Fund, which last year saw more than a $168 million diversion. (I say looks like because I am not absolutely certain, as budget docs are complex)

Bottom line, it is not nearly as bad as the Governor stated in his address – which prompted my harsh headline (which is misleading, but will not be revised, for purposes of accountability, myself included – end update 2].

[Update 1: link to Budget Overview is working now – DEP takes a $38.6 million, 9.8% cut. As a percentage, that cut is second largest among all Departments, only to Health and Senior Services 15% cut.

As noted below, because there is no fiscal logic for the DEP cuts in terms of taxpayer savings, this shows that DEP is targeted for other ideological reasons, to further dismantle environmental regulation at the request of corporate masters. Christie is acting just like the Republicans in Washington DC, who have targted EPA:

Republicans unveiled a budget plan on Wednesday that proposed a $1.6 billion cut [1] to the Environmental Protection Agency, an agency whose authority they have sought to curtail, while business trade groups [2] have complained about the burden placed on them by agency regulations. Politico also reported that the GOP’s proposal would hit the Energy Department hard [3], with a proposal to cut energy efficiency and renewable energy programs in half. [end update 1]

I just listened to Governor Christie’s Budget Message.

I will leave many other issues with which I disagree alone, and focus exclusively on the environment.

The Governor mentioned the word “environment” at least twice – and not with respect to the natural environment, but to the “business environment”.

The Governor said all state Departments would see budget cuts - DEP would be cut by 10%.

There is no fiscal rationale for cutting DEP’s budget. Due to the way the DEP is funded, these cuts translate into subsidies for polluters.

As I previously wrote:

NJ taxpayers pay less than 2 tenths of 1% of the State budget to fund the operating budget of DEP. This implements the polluter pays policy. There is no taxpayer savings to be had by further slashing DEP budgets.

ONLY 24.7% of DEP’s FY 2009 $230 million operating budget, just $56.81 million, is paid by taxpayers from the state general fund. (read DEP budget here)

The link on the Governor’s webpage is not working, so details are not available at this time.

In addition to subsidizing polluters and shifting the burden to taxpayers, further cuts to DEP reflect a warped set of priorities that contradict the public’s strong support of environmental protection.

New Jersey faces severe environmental challenges.

Chronic cuts to DEP’s budget over the past 15 years have undermined DEP’s capacity to assure protection of clean air, clean water, public health, and natural resources.

Chrisitie’s comprehensive assault via DEP budget cuts, deregulation, cuts in polluters fines, and regulatory rollback are a prescription for disaster.

We will keep you posted as details emerge.

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