TRENTON – A broad-based coalition of environmental advocates is asking Governor Murphy to invest in key areas to protect public health and the environment in his upcoming state budget proposal.
In a letter sent to Governor Murphy in advance of his annual Budget Address, they asked the governor to focus on five priorities, including investing in clean energy to improving NJ Transit, that would reduce harmful emissions and ensure that every New Jersey resident can breathe clean air, drink pure water, and have access to open space.
“After winning a historic re-election, Governor Murphy has a unique opportunity to harness New Jerseyans’ passion for environmental protection by using the state budget to hasten our transition to clean energy, invest in our state trails and parks, and address issues of environmental justice,” said Ed Potosnak, Executive Director of New Jersey LCV. “We look forward to working with the governor to build off of his successful first-term environmental record and make New Jersey the vanguard of environmental protection by ensuring that environmental concerns are central to this year’s budget process.”
The letter, signed by 18 organizations, lays out five key environmental priorities:
● Advance clean energy. Advocates urged the governor to end raids to the state’s Clean Energy Funds and instead focus investment on projects that expand access to renewable energy.
● Support healthy homes and buildings. Trenton should preserve funding for lead mitigation programs and roll out a new $15 million pilot program that electrifies homes to reduce emissions and improve indoor air quality.
● Build resilience to climate disasters. The state should provide full funding to the Delaware River Basin Commission to support the agency’s work in flood mitigation and also invest $10 million in a new program that provides funding for local municipalities seeking to implement local and regional climate resilience programs.
● Progress NJ Transit. A robust public transit system is vital for reducing emissions and improving air quality, and advocates are asking the state to end repeated raids of NJ Transit and identify new, dedicated funding sources that provide the agency with the resources it needs.
● Fund parks and trails. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of open space to New Jersey residents. Advocates are calling for a $6 million investment in urban parks to ensure that all residents, no matter their ZIP code, have access to green space, as well as $9.9 million for tax relief to municipalities that host state lands.
“The New Jersey League of Conservation Voters has again reached out to our many partners in the State and together have recommended to the administration and legislature important goals for keeping New Jersey the leader in environmental protection,” said Julia Somers, New Jersey LCV Board Chair and Executive Director of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition. “We pledge to work to support these programs and outcomes — it’s the most important work we can do!”
“As highlighted in a recent interview by Eric Stiles, President & CEO of our NWF affiliate New Jersey Audubon, studies have shown a strong correlation between access to open spaces and school performance,” said Marcus Sibley, National Wildlife Federation NY Metro Director of Conservation Partnerships. “Therefore, in addition to our support for increased funding of our parks and trails, we also advocate for the much-needed investments in all priorities mentioned in the FY23 Budget Letter. For the sake of all inhabitants of this planet, it is imperative that we are best equipped to effectively and equitably fight this fight for our environment.”
“The impacts of climate change are no longer abstract for New Jersey’s coastal and riverine communities. Inland communities are dealing with more frequent and intense flood events that have intensified in just the last few years. With nearly $5 billion of coastal real estate and the highest number of affordable housing units at risk of flooding in the nation, it’s time for New Jersey to make strong commitments to climate resilience and adaptation strategies,” said Cortney Koenig Worrall, President and CEO, Waterfront Alliance. “Waterfront Alliance supports the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters’ FY23 budget priorities to ensure we are taking necessary steps to protect New Jersey’s people, infrastructure, and natural ecosystems from climate change”.
“Budgets reflect priorities and values,” said Jen Coffey, Executive Director of the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions.” We are asking for climate resiliency, clean energy, good public transportation, and open space to be priorities in the next budget because we know the people of New Jersey value these assets.”
“Transitioning to a more equitable clean energy economy will create new business opportunities and family-supporting jobs,” said Richard Lawton, Executive Director of the NJ Sustainable Business Council. “To do so at the necessary speed and scale, however, requires that both private and public investment be aligned and redirected toward actualizing this common goal. In order to neutralize the inertia of “business as usual” and its associated risks and costs, the state’s budget must be designed and allocated in ways that will equitably enhance resilience, sustainability, and public health.”
“We need to invest more in clean energy, public transit, reducing pollution, climate resiliency, and greening our communities,” said Tom Gilbert, co-executive director, NJ Conservation Foundation. “Doing so will more than pay for itself through improved public health, safer and more livable communities, good local jobs, and a stronger economy.”
“NJ TRANSIT’s budget has been hit hard since the start of COVID. Thankfully, the agency has been able to utilize the available federal emergency relief money to maintain stable fares and keep full service for its riders. This has been especially important for the state’s transit-dependent riders, many of whom are low income,” said Janna Chernetz, Deputy Director, Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “However, the state needs to continue to look for ways to put NJ TRANSIT back on the road to fiscal solvency before the emergency money runs out. Adequate, reliable, and dedicated revenue must be identified to meet the agency’s operating needs without the continued overuse of capital raids. Electrification mandates and system expansion must be prioritized and that requires making every capital dollar count.”