NJ Legislature Urged to Build on Murphy Budget
Fiscal responsibility, tax fairness can pay for increase New Jersey Transit (NJT), Clean Energy & NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) funding
Trenton/Newark, NJ -- Clean Water Action testified at the Senate Budget Committee's first public hearing on the FY 2020 budget today. Noting these issues really hit home to her as a Newark resident with three asthmatic children, the group’s environmental justice organizer, Kim Gaddy, submitted the following statement:
"Fiscal responsibility is critical to environmental protection. Funding public health safeguards has suffered over 25 years of fiscal irresponsibility that will take years to recover from. The FY2019 budget began that effort, Governor Murphy's proposed FY2020 accelerates it and the Legislature should continue that trend.
The proposed budget is demonstrably more fiscally responsible than years past with fewer one shots, a fair balance of budget cuts and tax fairness, less diversion of dedicated funds and a healthy budget surplus, while DEP core funding remains relatively intact and there's some increased funding for Clean Energy and NJT.
However, these programs remain severely underfunded. Environmental justice and workforce development to expedite the transition to a clean, green, renewable economy especially require additional attention.
We are encouraged by the fiscal responsibility and tax fairness in the Governor's proposed budget especially:
- $1.1 billion in sustainable savings and a $1.16 billion surplus
- $447 million additional revenue from expanded millionaires tax
- Fewer one shots - 1.7%, Christie averaged 3.4%
- $155 increase in funding for Clean Energy, affordable homes and NJT, raids reduced
We urge increased funding for critical programs without compromising the above especially:
- Environmental Justice - DEP is chronically underfunded and understaffed. $238 million expended in 2005 v. $241 million in 2018. Same amount recommended in 2020 as 2007 ($251 million). Fewest staff in 30 years, 23% cut since 2005 (3,437 FTEs to 2,665 in 2017). Parks, site remediation, water, energy, underground storage tanks and diesel pollution programs especially in urban areas are hard hit as their funds have been sent to the General Fund, GSPT, outside non-profits and private contractors.
- NJ Transit - The proposed $25 million increase doesn't keep up with inflation, increased responsibility resulting from the recently signed NJT reform bill (S630), past service cuts, fare hikes, and capitol raids.
- Clean Energy - End all transfers of these funds. Raids of the past 10 years totaling over $1 billion have cost thousands of clean energy jobs, consumer savings, and stalled efforts to combat the climate crisis.
- Clean Water - Capitol upgrades for storm water, lead mitigation, unregulated contaminants and combine sewer overflows will not only stem public health crises but also create construction jobs
You can’t fund something with nothing so we recommend additional revenue enhancers and cost savings:
- Redirect CBT, NRD and any RGGI funds to better target environmental injustice.
- Ramp up enforcement actions especially in environmental justice communities to better protect public health and the environment, and make polluters pay for their wrongdoing not victims with their health, quality of life, pocketbooks and lost school and work days.
- Reform corporate tax incentives and hold past abusers accountable.
- Restore the estate tax, make it fair and progressive, return the sales tax to its level before the 2016 and offset it for the low income by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit.
- Negotiate, don’t mandate, additional cost savings like the health care savings in this budget.
- Increase investments in programs that will grow the economy and thus state revenue – NJ Transit, energy (offshore wind, solar, efficiency, smart grid), and water – you have to spend money to make money.
It is a multi-year effort to dig out of the hole we’re in and make New Jersey stronger and fairer. Please build on the progress you’re making in this year’s budget. Increase funding for these priorities while staying true to and expanding on the fiscal discipline and tax fairness laid out in the governor’s proposed budget."
Clean Water Action has more than 150,000 members statewide in New Jersey and is the nation's largest grassroots group focused on water, energy and environmental health. Since our founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking and people power to the table. We will protect clean water in the face of attacks from a polluter friendly Administration and Congress. www.cleanwater.org/nj