PATERSON, NJ- While the New Jersey governor’s race may be the marquee statewide matchup on the November 7th ballot, voters will also have the chance to cast votes on two ballot questions.
Often referred to as Ballot Question 2, the “Revenue from Environmental Damage Lawsuits Dedicated to Environmental Projects Amendment” asks voters if they want to dedicate funds from environmental contamination cases to environmental cleanup, preservation and the legal costs associated with prosecuting polluters.
Stacy McCormack, Director of Conservation Finance and Governmental Affairs for the Mid-Atlantic Region at the Trust for Public Land shed light on what Public Question 2 is about. “Right now, the State of New Jersey can divert funds won from environmental damages lawsuits to other uses not related to the cleanup or preservation of land,” McCormack said. “A yes vote on Public Question 2 would ensure that these funds go to repairing the environment instead of plugging budget holes,” she continued.
Earlier this year the Christie Administration added language in the FY 2018 New Jersey State Budget that caps the amount of money that that could be spent on repairing natural resource damages at $50 million, with any funds in excess going back into the State’s General Fund. While Democrats in the Legislature added language to the budget that would have required the State to split any monies over $50 million between environmental cleanup and the General Fund, Christie vetoed it, leaving the cap intact.
Should the funds from recent settlements with gas companies, including the $225 million settlement the State reached with Exxon Mobile Corp, come out of escrow before a new governor is sworn in, Christie would have the ability to divert all but $50 million of the settlement to other budget areas.
McCormack said that Christie’s ability under current law to divert all but $50 million from a recent $225 million settlement the State made with Exxon Mobile Corp. is a “perfect example of what happens when the State has the option to take funds away from environmental cleanup and preservation to plug budget holes,”
“Raids on natural damages funds impair the ability of the State to do the work that is needed to clean up areas where the damages have occurred,” McCormack added.
Asked about the importance of this ballot question in Paterson Domenick Stampone, the city’s corporation counsel said that “As Paterson continues to develop plans to clean up former industrial sites it’s important that any costs we recoup from polluters stay dedicated to the important effort to make our city cleaner for future generations.”
“Some areas are more industrialized than others, specifically our urban centers. While these areas shoulder much of the burden of industry, they are many times underserved when it comes to preservation and restoration of natural resources,” McCormack continued. “Voting yes on Public Question 2 would ensure that these funds are spent where the environmental damages took place.”
“The bottom line is, funds won from environmental lawsuits should be dedicated to environmental cleanup and preservation and not used as a slush fund by politicians. A yes vote on Public Question 2 will protect the money,” concluded McCormack.
There is currently no organized opposition against this ballot question.
Election Day is Tuesday, November 7. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m.