Open Space Preservation Referendum Will Appear on November Ballot
Saturday, August 9, 2014 • 1:17am
WEST ORANGE, NJ - There will be a Referendum on the November ballot asking voters to designate a permanent source of funding to New Jersey's valuable open space, historic sites, parks, and clean water preservation, thanks to the efforts of District 27 Assemblyman John F. McKeon.
According to a press release by McKeon's office, on August 4, Senate Concurrent Resolution 84 (SCR84) passed in the NJ Assembly by a wide bipartisan margin of 58-9. The constitutional amendment (SCR-84/ACR-130) will allow voters to decide via referendum on dedicating existing corporation business tax revenues from July 1, 2015 until June 30, 2019 and an additional 2 per cent annually thereafter to financing the state’s programs for open space preservation (Green Acres); the preservation of flood-prone areas (Blue Acres); farmland preservation and historic site preservation; water quality resources programs and projects; polluted site cleanups; and underground tank removal and cleanup.
“Open space preservation is an issue that knows no party or ideology. It’s simply about ensuring that New Jersey residents have the best possible quality of life,” said McKeon. “This desperately-needed source of long-term, stable funding will go a long way toward protecting some of this state’s best assets, and we know voters will support that ideal.”
Program funding for Open space preservation has historically come from borrowing large sums of money every few years, which is then placed into the Garden State Preservation Trust (GSPT) fund. The GSPT has preserved approximately 800,000 acres for open spaces, farmlands, historic sites, parks development and clean water over the past fifty years. Unfortunately, little or no money remains in the Garden State Preservation Trust fund.
Offering voters the opportunity to vote on a referendum to designate open space funds would avoid the need to borrow money from new bond issuances to preserve open space.
More than 30 bipartisan lawmakers have signed on as sponsors, including McKeon's district-mate, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey.
“Here in the Garden State, we appreciate the environment, and we want to make sure future generations can say the same,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “We must now lead by example. This resolution is a declaration that we respect the land and water our children and grandchildren will inherit.”
McKeon is also the vice chairman of the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee. He noted, "The preservation of open space not only enhances and protects our quality of life, but is key to New Jersey’s long-term economic health."
He continued, "Studies have shown every dollar invested in preservation yields a $10 return.”
Investing in open space strengthens local economy by maintaining property values and helping control the cost of municipal services such as stormwater control and water filtration. In additions, the state has identified approximately 400,000 acres in need of protection to maintain it. Agriculture is the third largest industry in the Garden State.
The 27th District includes the municipalities of Caldwell, Chatham Township, East Hanover, Essex Fells, Florham Park, Hanover Township, Harding, Livingston, Madison, Maplewood, Millburn, Roseland, South Orange, and West Orange.