Home > Uncategorized > Senate Approves Plan To Divert $17 Billion In Sales Tax Revenue to Purchase Open Space

Senate Approves Plan To Divert $17 Billion In Sales Tax Revenue to Purchase Open Space

Assembly Balks – Deadline Approaches

“Keep It Green” Coalition Doesn’t Understand Why

NJ Keep it Green, a coalition of park and conservation advocates, called on leadership to move on the bill next week, before the Legislature’s summer recess.

“There’s overwhelming support in the Assembly,” said the group’s chairman, Tom Gilbert, who noted the resolution has 20 sponsors in that house. “Quite frankly, we don’t understand why they won’t schedule a vote on this.”  ~~~ Star Ledger, 6/20/13

[Update: 7/12/13 – the Paterson situation is exactly what I’m talking about and it is a huge political and policy problem that KIG just utterly fails even acknowledge, never mind address:

Paterson council looks to leave county open space program 

During the first 12 years of the county’s program, Paterson property owners have paid a total of $7.9 million in taxes for the open space fund, but gotten back about $2.3 million in projects, according to a report compiled by the municipal finance department. – end update]

Get a fucking clue, Tom – If I were Assembly Speaker, no way you’d get a vote.

Warning, I’m winding up for a full throated rant here, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Today the Senate approved a Resolution to divert $17 billion to fund open space over the next 30 years, by a lopsided vote of 36-2 (see SCR 138) (read the Star Ledger coverage, which is not bad for a change).

Senator Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) was 1 of just 2 Senators with the courage to question the wisdom of the proposed diversion.

Good for her.

The Assembly has yet to post the Resolution for a vote, and the head of the “Keep it Green” Coalition just can’t seem to understand why.

So, along with Senator Beck, as I oppose the measure, let me suggest a few reasons to Mr. Gilbert perhaps why Assembly Speaker Oliver has not posted the Resolution for a vote, and it seems to lack consensus support of the  Assembly Democratic Caucus.

Maybe it’s because NJ has a severe, chronic, structural budget deficit and there seems to be no money to fund anything, while essential services and social safety net programs are being slashed.

Maybe it’s because they’ve studied public finance, and think its bad public policy to fund capital investment from current revenues – maybe they understand that pay as you go is not a financial formula for necessary capital investments and infrastructure.

Maybe, with 9% “official” unemployment (far higher depression level actual real unemployment and underemployment), it’s because open space funding has perhaps the lowest jobs/investment ratio of all public investment?

Maybe it’s because diversion of $17 billion from the State budget plays right into a “starve the beast” and “make government small enough to drown in the bathtub” strategy of right wing zealots like Grover Norquist?

Maybe it’s because they realize that NJ has multi-billion deficits in infrastructure that require new sources of revenue, and that if we keep on going down the “austerity” and “no new taxes” road that the sales tax diversion reflects, then we are doomed.

Maybe it’s because legislators recognize that if we can’t marshall political courage to tell the truth and raise new revenues for a motherhood and apple pie issue like open space funding, then we’re doomed?

Maybe it’s because Legislators realize that land preservation requires not just acquisition money, but rests on a 3 legged stool, and that the planning and regulatory leg of that stool has been cut out by this Governor, as he rolls back land use and environmental regulation, refuses to support coastal land use reforms,  and cripples regional land use protection bodies like the Highlands Council? (all while most KIG coalition members either applaud or are silent)?

Maybe it’s due to a principled belief in fundamental fairness – because poor, middle class, urban, elderly, children, immigrant, disadvantaged, special needs, and countless other people and social groups are being starved – under a false claim of austerity that only serves to avoid tax increases – and are having their budgets slashed, which will be made worse by diversion of $17 billion of sales tax revenues for open space?

Maybe it’s because those same people and groups that are getting hammered by faux austerity pay the lion’s share of the regressive sales tax that would be diverted away from programs that help them and into the pockets of the wealthy and corporations?

Maybe it’s because minimum wage is not a living wage? And we can’t seem to afford an increase in minimum wage? Or food stamps, or women and poor people’s health care, or affordable housing, or libraries and schools and even school lunch programs all are being slashed?

Maybe it’s because income and wealth disparities are increasing dramatically – while this Governor rewards the rich and corporations with tax cuts and subsidies?

Maybe it’s because the regressive nature of the sales tax, compounded by the disproportionate share of the benefits of open space funding going to suburban wealthy landowners and corporations, is grossly unfair and amounts to reverse Robin Hood – eee gads, its class warfare!

Maybe it’s because Democrats can’t stomach the hypocrisy of the fact that while Governor Christie has dismantled environmental programs, the KIG coalition has said nothing about any of that, but instead praised the governor and provided political cover for him?

Maybe it’s because democratic urban districts always have had to fight for scraps of their fair share of the pot of  open space money and that this Gov. has made this historic unfairness far worse by grossly underinvesting in urban NJ, urban parks, and overall urban related open space funding?

Maybe the Democrats are growing a spine and have had enough already?

Maybe, Tom, – just maybe – some of this has occurred to you and your fellow elitist and selfish colleagues in the “KIG” coalition (who seem only to seek the support of urban democrats with your hand out for money, and never show up to protect the public health or environment their constituents live in and shed crocodile tears over “environmental justice”).

(PS – Or maybe they just resent being given no option by the Senate, and know that there are far better options available, like continuing NJ’s 40 year history of Green Acres revenue backed bond funding, or even a small water tax as the revenue source to finance borrowing.)

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  1. scott olson
    June 20th, 2013 at 20:47 | #1

    Ummm…can I get an “Amen!” for Brother Wolfe?

  2. Robin O
    June 22nd, 2013 at 10:10 | #2

    Amen is right! Posted my comment a little earlier under the wrong article. KIG has never been very effective in my opinion. And much of the money appropriated to open space and parks management in a referendum a few years ago never seemed to make it there. You make a great case for opposing this bill now even though I worked hard in support of open space in the past.

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