TRENTON – A bipartisan bill sponsored by Senators Bob Smith and Philip E. Haines which would ask voters to approve $300 million in stop-gap open space funding for the next two years was introduced and referred to the Senate Environment Committee today.
“As we continue discussions on a permanent funding mechanism for open space acquisition in New Jersey, we need to be constantly aware that the clock’s running out on the current pot of open space funding,” said Senator Smith, D-Middlesex and Somerset, and the Chairman of the Environment Committee. “If we allow funding to lapse, Green Acres, farmland and historic preservation are going to come to a screeching halt, and we’ll be forced to start from scratch in protecting open space from overdevelopment and suburban sprawl. Voters have consistently supported open space bonding at the ballot box, and we need to ask for their support again, to ensure that the progress we’ve made over the last four decades in protecting open space is not undone.”
The bill, S-1858, known as the “Green Acres, Farmland, and Historic Preservation Bond Act of 2008,” would authorize the State, subject to voter approval, to enter into $300 million in bonded debt to fund open space acquisition projects through 2010. Under the bill, the bonding initiative would raise $9 million for historic preservation, $175 million for Green Acres open space acquisition, and $116 million for farmland preservation. According to the sponsors, the legislation in many ways mirrors stop-gap bond funding approved in 2007 by the voters to keep open space acquisition programs afloat.
“As farmland and open space continue to disappear, it is vital that New Jersey renews its commitment to funding the preservation of these lands. While Burlington County has preserved more farmland than any other country in the State, it is clear that much more remains to be done,” said Senator Haines, R-Burlington, and a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. “This legislation serves as the model for responsible borrowing by ensuring that the public will have the opportunity to vote on the issuance of debt. If the measure is approved, the resulting funds will be used to preserve farmland, open space and historic buildings that will provide a public benefit for future generations..”
The bill is pending consideration in the Senate Environment Committee, before going to the Budget Committee and ultimately the full Senate for review.