Proposal Would Raise Funds for Parks Without Raising Taxes
TRENTON – A resolution sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Bernard F. Kenny which would allow voters to dedicate existing corporate business tax revenues to park maintenance and upkeep was approved by two key Senate panels today.
The bill, SCR-105, was unanimously approved by the Senate Environment Committee in the morning, and received Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee approval by a vote of 11-0 in the afternoon.
“With this bill, we’re able to dedicate the necessary funds to keep our parks and recreation areas in New Jersey beautiful without hiking taxes on already-burdened taxpayers in the State,” said Senator Kenny, D-Hudson. “It’s a revenue-neutral attempt to preserve and maintain a key component in our State’s tourism economy, and provide a connection to nature that many in urban New Jersey might not otherwise have.”
SCR-105 would seek voter approval, per a ballot question to appear this November, of a constitutional amendment dedicating funds for park maintenance and upkeep. Under the proposal, 15 % of the environmental dedication under the Corporate Business Tax would be used to finance parks and recreation improvements, with an additional 17 % made available on January 1, 2016, the date when another program funded by the CBT, the diesel engine retrofit program, is set to lapse. The 15 % dedication is funded by tapping unused surpluses in water quality, hazardous discharge and underground storage tank remediation programs.
“We were able to come up with a funding model that does not jeopardize the integrity of many of our most precious environmental programs, but capitalizes on previously unspent funds,” said Senator Kenny. “The money’s there, and we’re putting it to good use.”
Under current law, four percent of CBT revenues go to environmental purposes, and in FY 2007, the CBT is projected to raise between $2.3 and $2.4 billion for the State, with $92 to $96 million available for environmental projects. The legislation would take effect on January 1, meaning that it could net the State between $6.9 and $7.2 million in the first fiscal year for park maintenance, with estimated revenues double that for the first full fiscal year and subsequent years the dedication is in place.
“In too many budget negotiations in the past, important financial support for our parks has fallen by the wayside, as we’ve grappled with budget deficits and made tough decisions for New Jersey,” said Senator Kenny, a key member of the Senate Budget Committee. “With today’s legislative action, and the swift enactment I’m hoping for before the full Senate, we’re saying that our parks are a priority in New Jersey. Through this dedication, we can be sure that our parks and recreational areas will retain their unspoiled beauty for future generations of New Jerseyans to enjoy.”
The resolution now goes to the full Senate for consideration.