After the biggest environmental disaster in state history the Governor doesn’t mention the environment in his budget address and proposes a budget that takes away funding for people impacted by Sandy. The Governor’s cuts to programs that would benefit people impacted by Hurricane Sandy is almost 6 times more money than the $40 million he put in a special fund for Sandy recovery.
We should be increasing funding to help people impacted by Sandy, instead the Governor’s budget slashes many of those programs. Money for energy efficient appliances to funding for recycling to help debris cleanup has been cut. Money for beaches and shore protection has been raided. Even worse there is no funding for buying out families that have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy and want to sell.
Raids on the Clean Energy Fund are unconscionable after Superstorm Sandy because this money could help people rebuild. In FY 2014 $152 million will be diverted from clean energy funding. This money is supposed to be dedicated to energy efficiency, weatherization, and renewable energy. Since coming into office, Governor Christie has taken $750 million from the fund, costing us jobs and contributing to climate change which will mean more storm surges and flooding in the future. These cuts are a hidden tax and hurt our economy and people trying to rebuild.
The biggest cut is the elimination of $200 million in funding for Blue Acres and Green Acres acquisitions. At a time when we should be investing money for Blue Acres and open space to prevent flooding and buyout people, the Governor is not proposing a plan to fund these programs.
Instead of buying out flood prone properties we are rushing to rebuild them so there will be more tax revenue. The same is true of infrastructure like Route 35 where we are rushing to rebuild in almost the same way in the same places that just got destroyed. We are putting these families and infrastructure in harm’s way; the next time there is a big storm they will get flooded again.
The diverted $5 million from the Landfill Closure Fund and $21 million from recycling programs could be needed as we dispose of Sandy debris. $800,000 is coming from nuclear plant safety programs, despite all the issues with Oyster Creek during Hurricane Sandy. Shore Protection Funds are supposed to be spent on beach replenishment and dune projects, instead the Governor is diverting $13 million.
By raiding these programs the Governor is taking money away from Hurricane Sandy rebuilding efforts:
- $152 million Clean Energy Fund
- $18.3 million from Hazardous Discharge Site Cleanup Fund
- $16.3 from NJ Spill Compensation Fund
- $2.5 million from Safe Drinking Water fund
- $13 million from the Shore Protection Fund
- $21.6 million from the Recycling Fund
- $4 million from the Water Supply Fund
- $5 million from the Landfill Closure Fund
- Beaches and Harbor Fund
- Energy Conservation Fund
- Pollution Prevention Fund
- Land Acquisition and Development Fund
- Water Conservation Fund
The DEP is almost self-sufficient. Most of the budget, over 75%, comes from fees, fines, and federal grants. The budget takes $85 million from the DEP for other programs. That money would be better spent protecting our environment.
During the storm we saw the areas where we had stronger regulations to protect the environment fared better. The lesson of Sandy is we need to strengthen environmental protections, not weaken them. We need proper oversight and to ensure when we rebuild we do it better. This budget cuts those programs while the Governor is waiving and weakening environmental protections. The DEP is allowing some rebuilding to go forward without permits. Instead we should be strengthening our coastal and environmental rules and closing regulatory loopholes.
The DEP Budget will be down in FY2014 to $228 million from $341 million last year. This is the result of a drop in Corporate Business Tax revenue. This revenue is constitutionally dedicated and drops in this funding impact watershed management planning, brownfield redevelopment, diesel programs, and parks capital improvements.
DEP staffing is at the lowest level since the mid-80s. There are only 2812 employees, down from 3400 in 2008. There are fewer people to ensure our air is clean and make sure as we rebuild we will protect people from flooding. DEP staffing is already at a record low and with the hiring freeze in place many positions remain unfilled as staff retires. With rebuilding moving forward there may not be even be enough staff to write the permits to help get businesses and our economy going. The Christie administration has used budget cuts to eliminate the Office of Climate Change and cut staffing for the cleanup of toxic sites.
Following Hurricane Sandy we need a budget that looks to rebuild New Jersey in a smarter way including buyouts and climate change adaptation planning. We need to be moving New Jersey forward by strengthening environmental protections to protect people from storm surges and flooding. We need to rebuild and grow our economy in a way that will make New Jersey more resilient.
However we believe the Governor’s budget will do the opposite. Unfortunately the Governor is rushing to rebuild in an election year to increase tax revenues and look good in front of a national audience.