Home > Uncategorized > Gov. Christie Raided $42 Million From Recycling Fund – Cuts To Local Programs Reverse Progress

Gov. Christie Raided $42 Million From Recycling Fund – Cuts To Local Programs Reverse Progress

Gov. Has Used Environmental Accounts As An ATM Card – Over $1 Billion Gone

Christie Eats $42 Million Motherhood & Apple Pie – Leaves $2 Million In Crumbs

DEP Press Office Again Caught In Flat Out Lie

[Update below]

NJ once lead the nation in being the first state to establish a Statewide Recycling Program (1982), the first to mandate and fund local curbside collection via trash disposal taxes (1985/1987), and the first to set the most aggressive recycling rates for both municipal and commercial/industrial wastes (1992).

Public support for recycling and participation in local programs has grown tremendously over this period, to the point where recycling has become institutionalized and embraced as a motherhood and apple pie issue.

Not surprisingly, a well funded and publicly supported program led to some of the highest recycling rates in the country.

But all this progress is threatened by Gov. Christie, who has stolen $42 million in local recycling funds to pay for his tax cuts and business subsidies.

The recycling fund heist is just another example of how Christie is following the conservative Republican playbook: dismantle, deregulate, defund, mismanage, discredit, and privatize effective and popular government and environmental programs.

As WNYC reported:(listen here)

“Towns that recycled more, got more money from the recycling fund,” said Bill Wolfe, a former Department of Environmental Protection employee-turned-environmentalist.

NJ’s recycling tax has been the source of funding that drove this success.

But, when Larry Ragonese of the DEP press office was asked by a WNYC reporter to comment and explain why the Gov. was choking an effective and motherhood and apple pie program like recycling, DEP flat out lied (again!).

But since 2012 under Gov. Chris Christie, more than $41 million has been transferred from the recycling tax fund and placed into general revenue to help balance the state budget.

Larry Ragonese, spokesman for DEP, said that there has been no impact to the fund and no town has been slighted.

Thankfully, the WNYC reporter, armed with the facts, called Ragonese out – something that is far too rarely done by NJ press corps –  and he corrected his lie and walked back his spin:

[WNYC] – When we went back to the DEP, the agency spokesman corrected himself.

According to DEP data (table below) steady progress in recycling rates hit a plateau in 1997 at 43% of the municipal waste stream and 61% of total waste (commercial & industrial included) and then began a steady decline.

Progress resumed but was not yet fully restored to 1997 rates in 2010.

The initial rates of progress, the declining rates, and the resumption of progress are all linked to the availability of State funding to support the local recycling programs.

The initial recycling tax was established in 1982, but revenues effectively increased in 1985 with the “McEnroe” legislation that created significant new disposal taxes, portions of which were used to fund local and county recycling programs.

But those “McEnroe” trash disposal taxes expired in 1996 and were not renewed under the Whitman Administration’s anti-tax, anti-government, and anti-environmental policy agenda.

As a result, the DEP’s own data show that progress stalled and recycling rates actually declined, as funding to local programs dried up.

The Corzine Administration supported reauthorization of the recycling tax in 2006 [correction, 2008], and, not surprisingly, shortly thereafter the funded local programs began to improve performance and a 10 year decline was reveresed.

But, just as progress began to resume, Gov. Christie began to divert virtually every State environmental budget account that had cash on hand.

Now in the 4th year of his Administration, the Gov. has used environmental accounts as an ATM card.

Christie diverted or eliminated over $1 billion of funds dedicated to environmental purposes: over $800 million of Clean Energy Funds; about $200 million in RGGI carbon pollution emissions allowance revenues were diverted then the program terminated; $40 million of the Passaic River cleanup settlement; and $42 million from the Recycling Fund. Additional millions were raided from other accounts, like landfill closure.

Oh, but while the Gov. was eating motherhood and apple pie, he did leave some crumbs. According to OLS:

The [FY’14] budget recommends the transfer of $21.6 million from the State Recycling Fund to the General Fund for revenue. The estimated balance remaining in the fund after this transfer is $2.3 million.

Source: NJ DEP

[Update: 9/7/13 – First of all, I made a typo and an error, the diversion WNYC reported was $41 million and the Corzine Recycling tax was renewed in 2008, not 2006.

But the actual total diversion could be $48 million, because the Gov.’s first budget (FY’11) proposed to divert $7 million (see OLS analysis. page 16). I am not sure how the final adopted budget resolved this proposed diversion.

I wrote about that back on April 22, 2010 to call out the Administration’s Earth Week hypocrisy – stealing $7 million yet doing recycling Fund related photo ops. – end update]


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