Will sales tax refill N.J.’s bankrupt open space fund?

A coalition of environmental groups is urging New Jersey lawmakers to sign off a proposed constitutional amendment to provide funding for open space preservation.

The amendment would dedicate 0.20 percent of state sales tax revenue over the next 30 years for open space programs.  Supporters say that would generat about $200 million a year.


Tom Gilbert with the “Keep It Green Coalition” says the last of the bond funds voters previously approved for those programs have been fully allocated.

“This legislation will literally prevent decades of successful preservation efforts in this state from grinding to a halt and finally put a sustainable source of funding in place,” he said.

New Jersey Sierra club director Jeff Tittel supports open space preservation but questions whether using some of the sales tax revenue is the way to go.

“I think we need to look to mention other sources of funding because what we’re doing is going to mean more cuts in programs that we care about,” said Tittel.

State Sen. Bob Smith, who is chairman of the Senate Environment Committee, says there’s even more demand for these funds since Superstorm Sandy.

“New Jersey’s problems with 130 miles of coastline are enormous, and if we don’t have a dedicated source of money to deal not only with open space and farmland but the acquisition of flood prone property, we’re going to see this misery continue,” he said.

Supporters are hoping lawmakers sign off on the amendment so it could go on the November ballot for voters to decide.

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