McKeon & Spencer Legislative Package to Fund Recreation & Conservation Projects throughout NJ Heads to Gov’s Desk

(TRENTON) – A two-bill legislative package sponsored by Assembly Democrats John McKeon (D-Essex/Morris) and L. Grace Spencer (D-Essex) to help fund various recreation and land conservation projects throughout the state received final legislative approval Thursday and now heads to the governor’s desk.

The bills (A-4558) and (A-4559) would make grants and loans available to nonprofit organizations and municipal and county governments for specific recreation and conservation projects. The projects eligible to receive funding under the bill have been approved by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Garden State Preservation Trust.

“Being one of the most densely populated states in the country, it is vital that we maintain a balance between development and preservation,” said McKeon. “These funds can help protect our natural resources while providing recreational spaces for New Jersey families to enjoy.”

“There is tremendous natural beauty in New Jersey. There is a reason why we are called the Garden State,” said Sumter. “These funds can help preserve the character of our communities and provide more recreational opportunities for current and future generations of New Jerseyans.”

The first bill (A-4558) would appropriate $4.75 million in Green Acres funds to provide grants to various nonprofit entities to acquire or develop lands for recreation and conservation purposes. The funding is from the balances in the “Garden State Green Acres Preservation Trust Fund” and the various Green Acres funds established pursuant to Green Acres bond acts made available due to project cancellations. Under the bill, $3,725,000 of the amount appropriated would be allocated for acquisition projects, and the rest would be allocated for park development projects.

The bill also would allow the DEP to re-distribute certain other moneys, which have been returned to the department due to project withdrawals, cancellations, or cost savings, to provide additional funding, for recreation and conservation purposes, to previously approved and funded projects of nonprofit entities, subject to the approval of the Joint Budget Oversight Committee.

The second bill (A-4559) would appropriate $88,592,361 from the “Garden State Green Acres Preservation Trust Fund” and various Green Acres bond acts to the DEP to provide grants or low-interest loans, or both, to assist local government entities in the state acquire or develop lands for recreation and conservation purposes. Under the bill, $52,431,425 would be allocated for projects to acquire lands for recreation and conservations purposes, and the remaining $36,160,936 would be allocated for projects to develop lands for recreation and conservations purposes.

Under the bill, the DEP, with the approval of the Joint Budget Oversight Committee, would be allowed to use any leftover funds (that remain after the projects listed in the bill have been funded) to provide additional funding for local government projects listed in the bill, as well as for local government projects previously approved for funding pursuant to various other laws.

The bill would also allow the DEP, with the approval of the Joint Budget Oversight Committee, to re-distribute moneys, which have been returned due to project withdrawals, cancellations, or cost savings, or which have or will become available on or before June 30, 2015 due to interest earnings and loan repayments from various Green Acres bond act funds, to provide additional funding for recreation and conservation purposes to previously approved and funded projects of local government units, or to local government unit projects listed in this bill.

The bill (A-4558) was approved 74-0-1 by the Assembly and 38-0 by the Senate, while bill (A-4559) was approved 76-0-1 by the Assembly and 40-0 by the Senate.