(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Members John Armato, Roy Freiman and Mila Jasey providing funds to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to acquire land for New Jersey cleared the General Assembly Thursday by a vote of 74-0-1.
“We owe it to our taxpayers to preserve our natural and historic sites so they can enjoy them for years to come,” said Armato (D-Atlantic). “We must make New Jersey not only the best state to live and work in, but also to play in.”
Under the bill (A-4210), $15.294 million would be appropriated to the DEP with the goal of acquiring lands for the state for both recreational and conservational purposes, including for the Green Acres program and Blue Acres Project.
The Green Acres program was created in 1961 to meet New Jersey’s growing recreation and conservation needs, and through public-private partnerships, has protected over half a million acres of open space and provided hundreds of outdoor recreational facilities in New Jersey.
The Green Acres, Farmland, Blue Acres, and Historic Preservation Bond Act of 2007 authorized monies for the acquisition of lands in the floodways of the Delaware River, Passaic River or Raritan River, and their respective tributaries from willing sellers whose properties have been, or may be prone to, damage caused by storms or storm-related flooding.
“There are some areas of our state which have been heavily damaged by storms and flooding,” said Freiman (D-Somerset/Mercer/Middlesex/Hunderton). “Not only can we provide these folks with some financial relief, if they so choose to move on to the next chapter of their lives, but we can also use these lands to make beautiful public spaces for our residents to enjoy.”
The funding in this bill is provided from constitutionally dedicated corporation business tax (CBT) revenues, and provides that 60 percent of the dedicated CBT revenues allocated each year go towards the Green Acres program.
Of that 60 percent:
• 55 percent would be used for state open space acquisition and development projects (27.5 percent for the acquisition and 27.5 percent for the development);
• 38 percent would be used for grants and loans to fund local government open space acquisition and development projects; and
• 7 percent would be used for grants to fund open space acquisition and development projects undertaken by qualifying tax exempt nonprofit organizations.
“New Jersey has an incredible mix of natural beauty and historical landmarks, and we must preserve these for generations to come,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “By doing this, we are providing additional opportunities for New Jerseyans to enjoy our state while remaining an environmental leader in the United States.”
Specifically, the bill appropriates $12.3 million from the “Preserve New Jersey Green Acres Fund” and the unexpected balances in the Diesel Risk Mitigation Fund to the DEP to provide funding for the acquisition of lands by the state for recreation and conservation purposes, and $2.994 million from the “Preserve New Jersey Blue Acres Fund” and the unexpected balances in the Diesel Risk Mitigation Fund to the DEP to buy lands that have been, or may be prone to, damage from floods or storms.
The bill was initially approved by the Assembly Budget Committee on June 18 and now awaits further action in the Senate.