Environment and Business Groups Calling for Sustainable Green Recovery Agenda; Give Budget Mixed Reviews
(TRENTON, NJ) September 29, 2020 — A diverse group of environmental, outdoor recreation, planning and business organizations calling for investments in programs to advance clean energy, create parks and trails, improve water infrastructure and make communities more resilient to climate change generally applauded the budget signed by the Governor today, while highlighting the need for greater investment in clean energy.
The groups acknowledged shared sacrifice couldn’t be avoided during a pandemic that increases New Jersey’s needs and diminishes the revenue it takes to meet them.
“To their credit, Governor Murphy and legislative leaders chose not to follow the cuts-only approach that made bad times worse in New Jersey and many other states during the Great Recession,” explained Ed Potosnak, executive director of New Jersey LCV. “Changes to the state’s income tax rates, affecting less than one percent of households, is a welcome development that will help New Jersey make the public investments needed for a prosperous future.”
“We know that investments in clean energy yield real bang for the buck in terms of creating good, local jobs while reducing the pollution that harms our health and makes people more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19, especially communities of color,” said Tom Gilbert campaign director of Rethink Energy NJ and NJ Conservation Foundation. “Unfortunately, the budget increased the amount diverted from the Clean Energy Fund. We look forward to working with the Governor and Legislature to bring those diversions down to zero over the next few years.”
“In this time of crisis, we recognize the challenge of allocating limited resources in ways that serve to advance a healthier, more sustainable and equitable economy while breaking from the inertia of a failing status quo,” said Richard Lawton, executive director of the NJ Sustainable Business Council. “We applaud the Governor’s and Legislature’s good faith efforts to meet short-term imperatives while continuing to prioritize and fund long-term investments in the transition to a clean energy economy and modernizing water and mobility infrastructure. Consistently following through on these commitments will be key to unleashing market-driven investment and innovation that will accelerate increased resilience and shared prosperity for all New Jerseyans.”
“There has never been a more important time to consider the health of our state,” said Chris Sturm, managing director of Policy and Water for New Jersey Future. “With more New Jerseyans working and attending school from home, the threat of lead in drinking water has only increased. While this budget does not allocate the full $80 million to fund lead service line replacements, it does allocate $60 million, which will help make New Jersey a safer place for so many. Our water infrastructure requires significant investment, but this is an important start.”
“We are thrilled that money for State Park stewardship, and funding for the State Recycling and Clean Communities Funds are allocated in full. The Clean Communities grants provide critical money to local governments, especially Environmental Commissions, in the fight against plastic pollution by providing recycling and cleanup services,” said Jennifer M. Coffey, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions. “This budget will also ensure that NJ State Parks stay open to the public at a time when we need them the most and are seeing an unprecedented number of visits.”
“Anyone who has been out in New Jersey’s marvelous parks since the COVID-19 pandemic began knows what an important role they are playing in protecting the public’s health and sanity,” said Julia Somers, executive director of the NJ Highlands Coalition. “All of our parks are being heavily used and appreciated more than ever. It is critical that DEP receives the support it needs to manage our parks safely and well for the hundreds of thousands of people who are visiting them, and this budget does that. Thank you to the Governor and the Legislature for recognizing how important our parks are to the people of the state.”
“We are happy to see the Governor and Legislature prioritize funding for our parks in today’s budget,” said Eileen Murphy, vice president of Government Relations for New Jersey Audubon. “Our parks have always had immense public support and continue to be critical for New Jerseyans’ mental and physical health during the pandemic, which made protecting their funding a key priority for New Jersey Audubon in this budget.”
“The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed is appreciative of the Governor and Legislature’s leadership, in support of clean water and our environment,” said Sandra Meola, director of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed. “Restored Clean Communities funding allows for the successful implementation of NJ’s comprehensive single-use plastics legislation, once signed into law by the Governor. These funds will continue to allow municipalities and counties to fund litter abatement projects that prevent plastics from entering our waterways, threatening wildlife and public health.”