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Profiles in Courage & Integrity

If environmentalists won’t fight for new funds on easy lifts like open space, how are we ever going to get a price on carbon? Or pay for heavy lifts like funding to pay for multi-billion infrastructure deficits? Or clean water? ~~~ Bill Wolfe 8/3/14

[Updates below]

Are You Willing to Pay $2.66 a month to preserve Open Space? The price of a Latte? (or for real people, less than a pint).

What, you say no one ever asked you that question?


(Senator Smith & Jeff Tittel claim that they’ve been “fighting” for a water tax to 20 years. They never posed this question? In an opinion poll? In an Op-Ed? In a press release? In scores of almost daily sound bites Tittel is famous for?)

Well, now that NJ voters again, for the 14th time over 50 years, demonstrated overwhelming support for open space preservation by an almost 2-1 margin (65% -35%), we thought we’d just let you know how the politicians in Trenton – with the support of environmental groups and NJ Foundations – assessed the political risks of voters’ support for new revenues to actually pay for what they so strongly support:

Prime Sponsor and Committee Chair Senator Bob Smith (verbatim, at the December 12, 2013 Senate Environment Committee hearing)

Not only does the polling indicate that a water tax will not pass – that it will fail miserably – the leaders in both houses of this legislature will not post a water tax.

They will not allow their members to have a vote that says tax the water of the state of NJ, even though it would amount to $32 per year per home. 

They will not allow themselves to be in a position, where in the very next election, the party that didn’t vote for it will say, “They tried to tax your water, what’s next the air?”

I would like to do the right thing but it will not happen. Leaders won’t post it and voters won’t pass it.

We need a stable source funding for open space – that is the holy grail of the environment.

Now, aren’t you just bursting with confidence and pride in the judgement and courage of your environmental leaders and legislators?

Oh, while we’re at it, I guess we also ought to tell you about the honesty and integrity of the process.

As just one example of many I could offer, here is Keep It Green Coalition head Tom Gilbert, testifying at that same Senate Environment Committee hearing.

Claiming that there would be projected growth in sales tax revenues to offset the diversions he sought, Tom was trying to mollify critics who were concerned about the deep cuts to education, healthcare and social programs that might result if $200 million in sales tax revenues were diverted to open space. Tom confidently pledged: (again, a verbatim quote)

Every dollar for preservation would not be a dollar taken away from something else.

Yet just months later, KIG and Tom supported diversions of $71 – $117 million per year from DEP environmental programs. That directly contradicted his prior assurance.

Every dollar for preservation IS taking a dollar away from something else.

This is just one of many many lies that duped well meaning voters. For shame.

But they have no shame.

[Update: The Bergen Record reports that KIG spent over $730,000, likely more when final ELEC reports are filed.

As I wrote on 8/4/14 in the wake of the Assembly vote:

We will be opposing the measure from now till November, but we’re up against tons of conservation community and Foundation money, and there is little indication right now that the KIG coalition members will break ranks or that the less self interested groups like Sierra Club or NJEF will speak out honestly in opposition to what they did not create and know is a very bad plan.

But I never imagined that kind of money.

And I was wrong about Sierra – Jeff Tittel was deeply involved in drafting it and defending it. Inexcusable, because he knows better. – end update]

[Update #2: honesty requires that I note that the only ENGO leader who handled themselves with integrity in this whole debacle ironically was Dave Pringle of NJEF.

I have blasted Pringle and NJEF for their CHristie support, but, quite frankly, what KIG and Tittel and the Democrats did here is on a par with – or actually worse than – the NJEF Christie endorsement.  – end update]

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