Sierra Club: Gov. Murphy’s Budget FY 2021- Funding for Environment Remains Flat

Gov. Murphy’s Budget FY 2021- Funding for Environment Remains Flat

Governor Murphy’s delivered his budget address FY 2021. Overall the DEP budget was reduced from $557 million to $342 million, which is a 34% drop. The state service funding went from $253 million to $250 million, a 1.3% drop. The Clean Energy Fund was raided by $83 million, $5 million less from last year, however there will be an additional $30 million be taken out of the fund for EV’s, NJ Transit, and the Whole House Project.

“This year’s overall state budget is up while environmental funding is flat and DEP’s budget is down slightly. Even though the overall DEP budget is down by 30%, that is from supplemental sources and bond money for things like open space, so it can come up again. The one concern we have is the funding for state programs is down 1.3%. We need to increase DEP staffing.  Governor Murphy promised to have 100 more DEP staffers than under Christie, however we are more than 150 below Christie. The DEP needs more money for personnel who will make sure our water is clean, our air is clean, and to help fight climate change,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Funds for critical environmental programs like the Hazardous Discharge Fund will see reductions by similar amounts from last year. We cannot continue to do these kinds of raids on the back of the environment. It is critical to fund and move New Jersey forward and we hope the DEP budget can be increased throughout the budget process.”

Overall the raids from the Clean Energy Fund went from $118 million to $113 million. $30 million will be taken out from the fund for NJ Transit, EV’s, and the Whole House Project.

“Raids to the Clean Energy Fund totaled at $113 million, this is $5 million less from last year. Of that $113million,  $30 million will go towards EV rebates, NJ Transit, and the Whole House Project. New Jersey must find a sustainable source of funding for our transportation system so that we can have money for CEF and move forward with things like energy efficiency programs and EV infrastructure for our state. Even though he has taken less money from the CEF compared to Christie, who took over $1.5 billion, we cannot continue this trend,” said Tittel. “Governor Murphy’s goals for offshore wind and electric vehicles will help this state move forward on clean energy, however we need to make sure we have a stable funding source for these major initiatives.”

Governor Murphy’s proposed budget FY 2020 still had a lot of money being diverted, close to $200 million. Two years ago, Commissioner McCabe promised to increase DEP staff by 100 people in their first year. Here we are, two years later and we are down 150 staffers from the Christie Administration.

“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. “Enforcement is down, parks are in disrepair, and we don’t have enough people to deal with the lead crisis, clean up toxic sites, and make sure our air is clean to breathe in and our water is clean to drink from. Last year, they grabbed close to $200 million in fees, fines and other funds, $19 million is being raided from the Hazardous Discharge Fund, and $17.5 million from the Hazardous Discharge Spill Act, money that should go toward brownfields cleanup. That’s money that should be going to urban areas for pollution cleanup and is instead being shipped out to the wealthy suburbs. Lack of funding for critical programs like a lake management program will mean Lake Hopatcong and Barnegat Bay will continue to be impacted by harmful algae and pollution,” said Tittel.

The budget will include $80 million towards cleaning up lead in New Jersey’s drinking water. Lead in drinking water has become an ongoing issue in New Jersey. Lead is one of the most hazardous substances known to man and it impacts children, especially small children, in our urban areas. It can cause illness and even in small amounts can lead to brain damage and learning disabilities. The NJ Sierra Club urges the Murphy Administration to come up with a stable funding source to pay for lead abatement and lead pipe replacement.

“It’s important that New Jersey has funding to fix the state’s major lead problem. The $80 million is a start and a down payment, however we need a stable source of funding. Overall the cost to fix New Jersey’s lead problem is $3.2 billion. We also need to tie fixing our infrastructure to energy efficiency and renewable energy as well as green building including blue and green roofs to reduce flooding,” said Tittel.

The Governor has 110 days to work with the Legislature and enact the budget, per constitutional deadline.

“For over a decade NJ’s budget has a lot of money being diverted from critical environmental programs. We need real money, not just pocket change for these programs. We still need to support a millionaire’s tax to close the loopholes and adequately fund DEP and NJ Transit. New Jersey should be putting money from this tax system in places where is supposed to go. More funding for DEP and critical environmental programs means having enough staff to get the lead out of children’s schools and moving New Jersey forward in energy efficiency while reducing our impact on climate change. Governor Murphy has made commitments on climate change and clean energy, we need a budget that can now fund those commitments,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

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