TRENTON – Three Republican senators who voted against a proposed sales tax/open space measure Monday questioned whether dedicating $200 million for preservation would endanger future Sandy recovery efforts.
Sens. Robert Singer, Jim Holzapfel and Christopher Connors, whose districts include various portions of the shore, said in a joint statement that “We’ve heard for years how tight the state’s budget situation is, so we are extremely concerned that the constitutional dedication of $200 million of state revenue annually to open space preservation will come at the expense of other critical needs like continuing Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.”
The trio all had voted yes in June on an earlier incarnation of this effort, SCR138. That resolution would have dedicated a fifth of a cent of each sales tax dollar for various preservation programs.
But they said Monday that SCR160, undergoing a daylong vote that stood at 19-7 at midafternoon, presents a different consideration.
“In recent weeks, we’ve heard an increasing number of reports that homeowners are having great difficulty getting the federal disaster assistance that they thought they were promised.
“Some residents have been told that federal programs are out of money, while others have been notified that they were disqualified from receiving assistance due to income restrictions that weren’t in place for recovery efforts following previous storms like Katrina.
“At some point, after all of the federal recovery aid has been disbursed, we may need to assess whether gaps remain in our recovery efforts that would require additional state assistance.”
Given that financial uncertainty, they said this is the wrong time to pass an amendment to the Constitution that would tie the state’s hands.
They said that support for open space must be balanced against the state’s needs for financial flexibility as homeowners recover from Sandy.
Supporters of SCR160, however, point to Sandy as one of the reasons the resolution is so important. They said that Blue Acres funding would help acquire flood-prone properties and get people out of harm’s way.