TRENTON – While Gov. Chris Christie discussed many things in his fiscal year 2014 budget address Tuesday – Sandy recovery, pension funding, Medicaid expansion, and increased school aid, among other things – one topic that was absent disturbed some Democratic lawmakers: the environment.
The current and past chairs of the Assembly Environment Committee expressed their dismay over the fact environmental issues were not given more of a presence.
Assembly Environment Committee Chairwoman L. Grace Spencer expressed her disappointment in the address.
“We heard nothing about ‘fracking,’ alternative energy, climate change or – most notable in a budget address – finding ways to continue open space and farmland preservation efforts,” Spencer said in a release.
“Republican hostility toward a clean environment and renewable energy should not be extending into New Jersey. For decades, environmental protection in New Jersey was a bipartisan effort, but now the governor fails to even mention these concerns in his budget address.”
And John McKeon, the former Assembly Environment Committee chair, said in a release, “I am extremely disappointed that the governor’s budget message failed to address any future source of funding for what has been the nation’s most successful land preservation program in its most densely populated state.”
The last round of preservation funds were exhausted in bills approved this fiscal year, although bills have been introduced to find new dedicated sources of funding, such as through portions of sales taxes, and they are working their way through the committee process.
McKeon pointed out that in the past 50 years, New Jersey has successfully preserved more than 1.2 million acres of land and an additional 200,000 acres of farmland.
The final installment of $123 million of the $400 million bond issue was appropriated recently by the state Legislature.
And Spencer said, “This is a critical time. We need to rebuild the shore. Climate change is an ever-growing worry. Our open space preservation fund is dwindling. And we need to make sure New Jersey is positioned as a leader in alternative energy for generations to come.”