TRENTON – The Assembly member who received the highest score in a report card of legislative performance issued by an environmental group Thursday said what concerns him most these days is shepherding a key land preservation proposal through the Statehouse.
John McKeon, (D-27), Madison, wants to do everything possible to ensure voters have a chance in November to vote on a constitutional amendment that would dedicate $200 million a year from sales taxes to fund a variety of environmental causes: preserving farmland, acquiring flood-prone properties, and more.
“It is cleared for takeoff, so to speak,’’ McKeon said of SCR160/ACR205, which was heard in a Senate committee Thursday.
However, in order for the bill to make its way to the ballot, the Legislature must come back into session by Aug. 1, he said.
“If we don’t move ahead and proceed to allow the decision to get into the hands of the people we are going to run out of funding,’’ he said. “That would be very hurtful for the long-term interests of all New Jersey.’’
Funds from the last round of public grants have been allocated, meaning that many preservation efforts will come to a halt if new money is not approved, advocates said at Thursday’s hearing.
However, there is no consensus among environmental organizations that the sales tax method is the most stable route to follow.
One supporter, Sen. Christopher Bateman, (R-16), Somerville, acknowledged the proposal is not perfect but said taht at this point it is the best option.
McKeon remains optimistic that legislative leadership will gather the lawmakers back into session during their election year summer recess at some point over the next two weeks.
He said that it is more than just about the state’s environmental health, it also is about economic well being, because he believes these efforts to conserve land and combat flooding problems will translate into jobs.