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TRENTON, N.J. – New Jersey voters in communities across the state yesterday approved 7 out of 10 local ballot measures to create, increase or continue open space funds, again demonstrating their longstanding commitment to funding open space preservation in the Garden State.
Unfortunately, voters did not have the opportunity this year to vote on a statewide referendum to create a sustainable source of funding for New Jersey’s open space, farmland and historic preservation programs. All funds from the 2009 voter approved bond measure for Green Acres, Blue Acres, farmland and historic preservation have been fully allocated.
“The success of the local open space ballot measures across the state indicates that New Jersey voters support investments in keeping our drinking water clean, preserving our parks and green spaces and protecting our family farms and historic treasures,” said NJ Keep It Green Chairman Tom Gilbert. “Now that Election Day is over, we look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature to establish a dedicated source of funding to continue New Jersey’s proud preservation legacy.”
The state Senate voted twice this summer in favor of legislation that proposes a voter referendum to dedicate $200 million in sales tax revenues –less than one percent of the state budget – to renew and sustain funding for the Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland and Historic Preservation programs.
The Assembly has not yet acted.
Open space ballot measures were approved in communities in Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Hunterdon, and Salem counties.
In Newark, an overwhelming 84 percent of voters supported the establishment of an Open Space and Recreation Trust Fund to acquire, develop and maintain parks and green spaces through a levy of 1-cent per $100 of assessed property value that would generate approximately $1.1 million annually.
Other successful measures include:
“New Jersey voters clearly value the benefits of open space, from having parks and trails that attract tourism dollars and support the economy to having green open spaces that help protect against flooding and enhance the quality of life,” said Kelly Mooij, coordinator of NJ Keep It Green. “With the 2009 bond money to fund state preservation programs fully allocated and no new money in the pipeline it is critical that the Assembly take action this year to protect our open spaces and preserve our family farms and historic treasures for this and future generations.”
The proposed $200 million dedication is the average amount that the state has been investing in preservation since 1998 when voters approved the nationally recognized Garden State Preservation Trust.
The funds would come from the projected growth of more than $400 million annually in sales tax revenues, ensuring that there would be many millions of dol1ars available to fund other programs above current levels.
New Jersey voters have long been supportive of funding for open space, farmland and historic preservation, passing 13 out of 13 statewide ballot measures since 1961. Moreover, voter surveys continue to indicate overwhelming support for a dedicated sales tax for open space funding.
A NJ Keep It Green commissioned survey of 600 registered likely voters found that 74 percent support dedicating $200 million annually in state sales tax revenues to fund open space, farmland and historic preservation programs.
Since the start of the year 17 counties – Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Monmouth, Middlesex, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Union and Warren – have all passed similar resolutions supporting sustainable open space funding, as have the NJ Highlands Council and the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.
About NJ Keep It Green NJ Keep It Green is a coalition of 185 park and conservation advocacy groups working to create a long-term, dedicated source of funding for the preservation and stewardship of New Jersey’s natural areas, waterways, parks, farmland and historic sites. NJ Keep It Green led successful campaigns to pass statewide ballot measures in 2006, 2007, and 2009 generating $600 million for state open space, farmland and historic preservation programs. For more information or to sign the NJ Keep It Green Statement of Support, visit www.njkeepitgreen.org.
Tom Gilbert (267) 261-7325
Kelly Mooij (732) 539-1693
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