Sweeney blames GOP votes that switched and lack of Assembly votes

TRENTON – Senate leadership sought to paint Monday’s failed vote on SCR160 as a victory despite not being able to get it on the November ballot.

However, some environmentalists said it is a victory in the sense that they considered the resolution flawed and now they hope it will be reworked for next year.

The Senate needed 24 votes in order to have a chance of getting the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot.  They only obtained 22.

Additionally, the Assembly would have had to have returned this week and voted.

“Today was a victory for open space funding in the Garden State. We had two Senators en route to the State House to get us the required 24 votes to put this issue on the ballot. However, we were given clear indications that the Assembly did not have the votes to pass this issue which would have prevented the referendum from going on the ballot this year,” Sweeney said.

“Unfortunately, eight Republican Senators who voted “yes” less than a month ago on a similar measure  turned their backs on New Jersey and open space efforts.  We would have easily had 24 votes if Republicans had simply voted the same way they did a few weeks ago.

“However, passing the bill today still allows us to pass it again next year and get it on the ballot in 2014. We are not done. We have every intention to get this on the ballot next year.”

But Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club said today’s showing proved that SCR160 was flawed.  “It would have tied government’s hands for the next 30 years,’’ he said.  The measure would have dedicated $200 million a year from fiscal year 2015 through 2044.

Tittel said it would have diverted needed money from other programs.

Now there is a chance to recraft the measure, he urged.

Sen. Bob Smith, a key sponsor, said it represented the best chance to find new public funding for open space.

“The open space fund has run dry and without some funding mechanism, New Jersey’s efforts to preserve open space, farmland and historic sites will be thwarted,” Smith said. “This legislation should be a policy priority in a post-Hurricane Sandy New Jersey as it provides needed funds to the state’s Blue Acres program. Experts agree that Sandy was not an isolated storm, but the beginning of what could be a period of intense weather events.

“With more than 150 miles of vulnerable New Jersey coastline, this legislation could provide a long-term funding mechanism to move people and property out of harm’s way and to remold and reshape development in the state.

“It is sad that the Republican caucus decided to play games today. Just last month, only two Republicans voted against open space funding. Today, with a more conservative bill, the majority of the Republican caucus voted against this legislation. Thankfully, enough Senators decided to put partisan politics aside and vote to protect our open space to continue this fight for this essential funding.”

Even had it passed in the Senate, the Assembly would have needed 48 votes and Tittel said it was unlikely all 48 Democrats would have supported it.   

There has not been a consensus among Democrats and environmental groups that this resolution was the best way to proceed.

Sweeney blames GOP votes that switched and lack of Assembly votes