The Assembly hearing on the Governor’s FY2018 budget will be held tomorrow. This budget continues to neglect New Jersey’s environment, while robbing from environmental programs to fill budget holes. Before Governor Christie took office, the DEP budget was $395 million, but now it has dropped to $274 million and there are more raids of environmental programs. Every year, the Governor’s priorities in the budget are wrong; he gives tax cuts to corporations and budget cuts to important environmental programs. This year he has continued to cut more DEP staff and programs, while rolling back environmental protections. These cuts will be even worse with the Trump Administration’s plan to rollback 30 percent of funding to the states. The hearing tomorrow will be held in Committee Room 11 on the 4th Floor of the State House Annex. Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club will be testifying at the budget hearing and released the following statement:

 

“Governor Christie’s final budget continues his attack on the environment. Before he came into office, DEP’s budget was close to $400 million and now it is $274 million. Every year the Governor cuts ten percent from the DEP budget, while diverting environmental funds to other programs. This is really a death by a thousand cuts because by taking aim at the DEP budget, he going after programs to protect our clean air and clean water. While he has cut environmental programs by a third, half of the DEP’s budget could be gone with Trump’s proposal to slash funding. As in previous years, Christie has used the Clean Energy Fund as an ATM and Exxon settlement to balance the budget. Every year the budget has been used as an excuse to weaken and rollback more environmental protections.”

 

“Budgets have real consequences and all along our Governor has used the budget to dismantle environmental protections. This year DEP’s operations are down another $11 million, while staff is down by almost half. By cutting back the budget, it means there is not enough oversight to make sure our toxic sites are cleaned-up, our air is clean, and our water is pure. Under Governor Christie, our parks are falling apart and we have a $250 million backlog in needed parks capital repairs. While DEP staff is down by 40 percent, the budget has been slashed by a third under the Christie Administration. Instead more money is being spent on stewardship to log public lands, clear-cut environmentally sensitive areas, and plant grass. These cuts are even worse because we’ve actually seen $100 million being transferred out of the DEP for other purposes.”

Sign Up for E-News

 

“Governor Christie’s budget is a disaster, but President Trump’s budget will make things worse in New Jersey. President Trump wants to cut 30 percent of funding to states, while he has already frozen $1 billion in grants. New Jersey will feel this even harder because DEP gets half of its money from EPA to work on environmental programs, including capital projects. This is because we have assumed the work of federal programs to protect our air and water. This means New Jersey could also loose over a $100 million in funding to deal with stormwater, mitigate climate change, and retrofit lead pipes. The EPA’s revolving fund for clean water and sewer projects could be cut as well. We could see the DEP have to cut staff who are responsible for implementing the Clean Water Act, leaving a huge hole in our budget.”

 

“This budget continues to raid money from important environmental programs such as the Spill Act, Hazardous Site Clean-up Fund, Hazardous Discharge Fund, Clean Communities, about $100 million. In past budgets, the Christie Administration stole settlement money from the Passaic River and Exxon settlement money, as well as money for lead abatement. We don’t know if they will be able to raid the money from the Exxon Settlement like they did in the past because we are in Court over it.”

 

“Again and again Governor Christie has hurt our economy and the environment by stealing from the Clean Energy Fund and not funding NJ Transit. We’ve seen another raid of the Clean Energy Fund, this time $167 million. Now the Governor has stolen over $1.6 billion to plug holes in the budget.  Instead of helping consumers save money on their electric bills, instead it is going to the General Fund. This money also funds offshore wind, helping consumers weatherize their homes, and other renewable energy programs. The Governor’s original budget included no money for NJ Transit, while our mass transit system is a mess and the trains are coming off the tracks. The Senate allocating $140 million for NJ Transit is a step, but what we should really be pushing for a fifty-fifty split because it will get people out of cars and help eliminate traffic. We also still need money for Positive Train Control. Once again Christie’s budget meets the needs of polluters and developers instead of the people of the state.”