Murphy’s Budget Lays Out Important Environment Goals:
We need resources to make it happen
Governor Murphy announced his proposed FY2019 budget yesterday. It includes initiatives for clean energy and fighting climate change, as well as environmental justice. We must look at how the budget will carry out these policy objectives. Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, released the following statement:
“Governor Murphy said some great things in his budget address on the environment including fighting climate change, promoting renewable energy, rejoining RGGI, and banning fracking. Governor Murphy has strong environmental and clean energy goals for New Jersey including reaching 100% green energy by 2050. This is even more important after eight years of Christie’s attacks on the environment and rolling back protections. However, we will need to implement all these plans and this takes resources that aren’t necessarily included in the budget proposal. While we have these important goals, we must make sure that the DEP, the BPU, and other agencies have the resources and funds to make them happen. The green part of this budget needs more green to make it happen.
“Governor Murphy’s first budget is an important step in moving New Jersey forward when it comes to clean energy and climate change but we’re not sure there are the resources to get it done. The DEP has been decimated by eight years after Christie, including a 40% drop in staff and about a 35% budget cut. Seeing the DEP budget getting cut once more is disappointing. The agency sees a 14.3% decrease from their 2018 budget, with a 3% decrease in operations; going from $213 million to $207 million. We must work in the future to restore funding to the DEP and use the budget to make New Jersey cleaner, greener, and stronger than the next storm.
“Since the Governor’s budget includes tax increases in various places, we hope that means the raids to the DEP will stop soon. We need to start hiring more people to do the core work of the department. This includes stopping privatization of DEP function and work. It will be important to build up morale and funding in the department that’s been disheartened and slashed over the last eight years. For example, ten years ago the Division of Parks had over 1,000 employees but there are under 400 today. Despite this, the amount of land they maintain has increase by 40%.
“We also have concerns with the continuing raiding of important funds. The DEP should have $421 million as their overall income from state, federal, and dedicated funds; yet their budget is only $275 million. The proposed budget still diverts money out of the DEP from programs such as the Spill Act and the Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund, at least $80 million. The budget also takes about $90 million from the Clean Energy Fund for other purposes including $80 million for NJ Transit and $5 million to implement RGGI. This Fund is meant to support projects that make our homes more resilient such as weatherization, along with energy efficiency and green jobs.
“The DEP needs to go after polluters with Natural Resource Damage claims and enforcement because polluters should pay to clean up their messes. Not only is it necessary for the communities but it is a way to raise funds for DEP programs. Based on NJDEP’s online database, total enforcement actions issued from 2008 to 2013, fell by 77 percent and site inspections have seen an 80 percent drop under Christie. Lack of testing and oversight has put New Jersey at risk, especially when it comes to lead in the drinking water. Rejoining RGGI could bring in at least $60 million as well. We can also raise fees for other types of pollutions.
“There will also be a $242 million increase in funding for New Jersey Transit. Christie turned the agency into a disaster, so this is a good step in the right direction. However, instead of taking the money from the Clean Energy Fund, we should have a stable source of funding for transit. Investing in NJ Transit is also critical for our economy and environment and putting money into NJT will get people to work on time and reduce traffic and air pollution.
“While the DEP budget has gone down, it doesn’t account for potential increases from corporate business taxes, whether it’s Sweeney or Murphy’s plan. Since 4% of the corporate business tax is dedicated to environmental purposes, these programs will benefit as well. This increase would help programs including open space, farmland, historic preservation, parks capital, clean-up of contaminated sites, brownfield redevelopment, and watershed protection.
“It’s more important than ever that we fund environmental programs in our state because of the cuts coming from the Trump Administration. $182 million of the DEP budget comes from the federal government. With the EPA cuts, we could lose a substantial portion of this. This year’s proposal cuts almost half of grants to state funding. We could see the DEP have to cut staff who are responsible for implementing the Clean Water Act or there may be a closing of parks, and termination of other vital programs.
“With his proposed budget, Governor Murphy has the chance to make New Jersey a leader once again in clean energy and fighting climate change. We can increase environmental protections and green hobs to help New Jersey protect our environment and public health. We look forward to working with the Murphy Administration to advance clean energy, promote environmental justice, fix NJ Transit, and fight climate change in New Jersey. Murphy said a lot of important things on environment, but we need to work with Administration and Legislature to get the resources needed to get it all done.”