Sales tax-open space preservation bill tabled

TRENTON – The Assembly tabled the resolution that would have posted a referendum this November asking residents if they want a portion of the sales tax to be used toward open space and other environmental purchases.

The legislation, SCR138, proposes a constitutional amendment that would be approved by voter referendum to dedicate one-fifth of one cent of the state’s 7-cent sales tax for open space, farmland and historic preservation annually for 30 years. 

Based on fiscal year 2012 revenues, this would generate more than $200 million a year.

NJ Keep it Green, a coalition of 180 environmental advocates that calls for a dedicated source of revenue for such causes, had supported the measure. It expressed disappointment Monday on not voting on the bill.

“Although New Jersey has long been a leader among states in supporting land and water conservation, there is no sustainable source of funding for these programs moving forward, putting years of preservation efforts at risk of being derailed,” NJ Keep It Green Chairman Tom Gilbert said in a statement.

However, Sierra Club Executive Director Jeff Tittel said the bill was flawed because it diverted funds from other causes. He looked at the bill being held as an opportunity to improve it.

 “New Jersey needs to have a stable long term source of funding for open space.  Hopefully the SCR being held today will allow for a sustainable funding program to be put in place.  We need a program that will protect open space for future generations without cutting other programs.  The funding mechanism should not pit open space versus other environmental program,” Tittel said in a statement.

Sales tax-open space preservation bill tabled