Sweeney-Riley Bill To Give Voters Chance To Approve Open Space Bonding Signed Into Law

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney and Assemblywoman Celeste Riley which will allow voters in November a chance to approve up to $400 million in open space preservation funding was signed into law today by Governor Corzine.

“New Jersey voters have made open space preservation a priority for the last four decades, approving every ballot question put before them, in good economic times and bad,” said Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “In New Jersey – the most densely populated state in the nation – every acre of open space is absolutely precious, and we must do everything we can to preserve undeveloped land from suburban sprawl. Through this law, we are once-again asking voters to step up and give us the authority to protect endangered open space for many years to come.”

The approved legislation, A-3901/S-1858, will ask voters to approve a ballot question this November which will authorize the State to borrow $400 million in open space preservation bonds to continue the State’s land preservation efforts. If voters approve the ballot question, $218 million of the bonding proceeds would go towards the Green Acres public recreation and conservation program, $146 million would go towards farm preservation around the State, $24 million would go towards flood relief through the Blue Acres program, and $12 million would go towards preserving historic sites in New Jersey.

Both legislators noted that with the historically low land prices caused by the global economic crisis, New Jersey’s preservation dollars can go further than before, allowing for more preservation on fewer dollars. They said that the State shouldn’t waste the opportunity to expand land preservation efforts.

“We must continue our legacy of aggressively protecting New Jersey’s diminishing areas of open space and farmland,” said Assemblywoman Riley, D-Cumberland. “This bond act would create a dedicated stream of funding to support the state’s ongoing efforts to preserve critical tracts of land, including farmlands and historic sites, and voters would have final say on whether it should go forward. We have a responsibility to protect these valuable tracts of land today before they are lost to development at the expense of generations to come.”

The bill was approved by both houses of the Legislature in June.

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