Murphy Releases Budget FY2020- Good Start, Needs Work
Today Governor Murphy released his budget FY2020. The DEP budget was cut by 17.8% and operations has been cut by 10%. The Clean Energy Fund will be raided by $87.1 million instead of the proposed $140 million amount. Those funds from CEF will be used for NJ Transit.
“This year’s budget is better than last year’s budget when it comes to the overall environment. We are seriously concerned however with the cuts to the DEP. The Department of Environmental Protection has been cut year after year to the bone and now Murphy is cutting DEP’s budget through the bone. The department barely has enough people to do its job now, now with the proposed budget, the DEP will not have enough people to keep our air and water clean and are parks open,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “There are positives with Clean Energy Fund and NJ Transit, but DEP is a mess. Murphy is still cutting the DEP budget and raiding its funds for other purposes.”
Only $87.1 million will be taken from the Clean Energy Fund FY2020. Those funds will be going to NJ Transit. Because of the constitutional dedication, Murphy could not take NRD money to use for the general budget.
“This is the first real improvement we had in the raids on the Clean Energy Fund in over a decade. Christie took over $1.5 billion at one point and Governor Murphy took $160 million last year. This year, Murphy will only take $87.1 million which is the biggest reduction in a long time. This is important because last year, Murphy said he would take $140 FY2020 and took a lot less. This is a step in the right direction. There is now a lot more money going towards energy efficiency and potential EV infrastructure. We see this as the biggest environmental positives in the proposed budget,” said Tittel. “It’s sad that taking less money out of the Clean Energy Fund is one of the biggest environmental positives in the budget.”
The Governor’s budget includes an additional $100 million in General Fund support for NJ TRANSIT, for a total subsidy of $407.5 million. Of this, $75 million will replace diversions from other sources and $25 million represents new direct funding. In addition, NJ TRANSIT will not raise commuter fares in FY2020.
“NJ Transit is turning the corner and finally starting to get better. The agency installed positive train controls and Governor Murphy signed the NJT Oversight bill into law. Now with more funding from the proposed FY2020 budget and with this new law, we can start rebuilding our transit system from the inside out and wake up NJ transit riders from their nightmare of a commute,” said Tittel.
The proposed budget FY2020 has cut the DEP and its operations. The department’s budget for 2019 was $388 million and FY2020, it is $319 million, a 17.8% cut. DEP operations FY2019 was $267 million and FY2020 is $240. This is a loss of $27 million or 10.1%. The total money coming into DEP last year was $1,000,1000 and this year it is down to $911,000,000.
“DEP has been cut for the last ten years and people have not been able to do their jobs. Governor Murphy is cutting the DEP while the agency brings in more money than it spends. If Murphy starts making cuts to DEP, then the agency cannot successfully implement important programs that protect our clean air, water, and open space. The DEP needs more funding so that we have enough people to do the many jobs of the agency, including re-writing the rules Christie rolled back. Lack of testing and oversight has put also New Jersey at risk, especially when it comes to lead in the drinking water,” said Tittel. “Governor Murphy’s proposed budget FY 2020 still has a lot of money being diverted, close to $200 million. Operations are also down by $27 million. Does this mean cuts, layoffs, or further attrition where people don’t get hired at the DEP? DEP is supposed to hire over 110 people and replace those that have retired.”
In February, an effort to privatize our state’s parks is again gaining momentum as the Murphy administration evaluates how public assets could generate more revenue for the state’s pension system. The state Department of Treasury has made a formal request for qualifications – RFQ – in search of a financial advisor to review a long list of assets to be potentially monetized through sale, lease, naming rights or other transactions. Those assets include roads, bridges, and buildings as well as parks and other recreational facilities.
“With cuts coming without any real new hiring at DEP, we are concerned that they will expand privatizing and outsourcing of DEP programs. DEP is expanding site LSRP site remediation, privatizing water and air programs and hiring outside engineers and consultants. The state is also selling park assets to commercial projects and ventures and to fix pensions. New Jersey should have learned its lesson from the Corzine debacle. Don’t seek short-term gain when it will mean much greater long-term loss,” said Tittel. “Privatizing DEP operations and parks is a slippery slope when it comes to protecting the environment.”
The Governor has 110 days to work with the Legislature and enact the budget, per constitutional deadline. Click here to read the full Fiscal Year 2020 Budget in Brief.
“Governor Murphy’s proposed budget FY2020 overall is better than last year’s and better than Christie’s budgets, but it still has a long way to go. It’s good that the Clean Energy Fund will have more money than it has had in a decade for important energy efficiency programs. However we need to make sure that our DEP has the funds for personnel and resources to protect our environment and our health. There are other ways to New Jersey can get funds, such as using some of the settlement money from the Fiat Chrysler Case lawsuit,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “If Murphy cares about protecting our environment and public health, then he will should make sure that DEP is funded.”