Open space-sales tax measure gains backing

TRENTON – The NJ Keep It Green coalition endorses the revised sales tax-open space legislation (SCR160/ACR205), saying it would provide a sustainable funding source to maintain green space, preserve water supplie and protect areas from flooding.

The funding, which voters would have to approve, would help the Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland and Historic Preservation programs by dedicating $200 million each year from sales tax revenue.

“NJ Keep it Green urges legislators to vote in favor of this bipartisan bill, which has the full support of the Coalition, because it provides a stable source of funding to continue vital open space, water supply and flood-plain protection, farmland and historic preservation efforts over the next three decades,” said NJ Keep It Green Chairman Tom Gilbert in a release. 

“If this legislation does not pass, decades of successful preservation efforts will grind to a halt, threatening important land and water protection and park and historic preservation projects, many of which are already under way.”

Since 1961 New Jersey voters have passed 13 out of 13 ballot measures supportive of funding for open space, farmland and historic preservation, the group said.  Moreover, voter surveys continue to indicate overwhelming bipartisan support for a dedicated sales tax for open space funding.               

The state is seeking new ways to preserve land and water since the last public funding and bonding for open space expired in this past fiscal year. 

This legislation needs to be voted on by August in order for the issue to appear on November’s ballot as a referendum.

The legislation proposes a constitutional amendment to dedicate $200 million annually of sales tax revenue for preservation.

While the original sales tax-open space bill, SCR138, passed easily in the Senate by a 36-2 vote, the bill never came up for a vote in the Assembly, as members expressed concern it would add more debt and hurt other programs. The original bill would have used up to $17 billion in sales tax revenue over 30 years. SCR-60 would use up to $6 billion over the 30-year period, given the $200 million annual limit.

Open space-sales tax measure gains backing