Reason For New Open Space Preservation Tax


The Reason Foundation, in a new policy brief, wonders why, with Pension Costs Soaring, Should New Jersey Commit Billions to More Open Space Preservation?

The New Jersey Legislature is currently considering a bill—Senate Concurrent Resolution 84 (SCR84)—that would amend the state Constitution to dedicate six percent of the state’s Corporation Business Tax revenues from FY2016 to FY2045 for the purpose of open space, farmland and historic preservation, and it would send this amendment on the ballot for voter approval in the next general election (presumably November 2014).

The new funding stream would be used to cover loans or grants for: (1) preserving land for recreation and conservation purposes under the state’s Green Acres program (as well as to expand the “Blue Acres” program to purchase lands in flood-prone areas, or lands that buffer such properties, and demolish all structures and improvements thereon); (2) preserving farmland; (3) preserving historic properties; and (4) covering the administrative costs associated with these efforts.

Yet the state government already owns nearly 15 percent of New Jersey’s total land area outright and, altogether, it has set aside nearly one-third of its total land area as protected open space, according to state figures. That is on par with the amount of total state land area already developed.

It is unclear why additional land preservation is needed when a significant portion of the state is already off-limits to development. Nor is it clear why there is a rush to lock in three decades of massive funding for land preservation when far higher spending priorities—primarily, rapidly rising government retiree pension and debt service costs—loom.

Look at how county Open Space taxes are being spent now and the answer becomes obvious.

New Jersey will steal the money raised for whatever purposes (even funding padded pensions) they please.  They would put a constitutional amendment to Preserve Cuddly Bunnies on the ballot as long as it meant more money to spend and they were allowed to interpret that “covering the administrative costs associated with these efforts” line as broadly as some counties have.

Based on the latest budget data sheets (with an  estimate for Bergen) put into a spreadsheet of expenditures at most 42% of county Open Space spending ($76.7 million out of a total $182.1 million in 2013) is being used to acquire open space.  Among the other uses:

  • $10 million to pay salaries ($6.7 of which for only three counties – Burlington, Essex, and Union).
  • $31 million for Other Expenses
  • $57 million for Debt Payments (which for Union County are made up numbers).

If New Jersey is becoming a “model for America” on pension reform then when it comes to misappropriating Open Space Trust Fund money Union County is becoming a model for New Jersey.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Anonymous on April 23, 2014 at 3:40 am

    Why does Christie keep mum on the fact that COLA may be reinstated? He also does not admit that because the full pension payment is never made he is causing the pension deficit to grow instead of shrink,. He brags that he put more money in than any other governor, that is because more money is needed because he continued to not make full payment. So in essence he has caused the deficit to grow more than any other governor. Isnt this true John?

    Reply

    • Posted by Tough Love on April 23, 2014 at 9:31 am

      Suppose Public Sector pensions were (instead of the current 2x-4x more generous than necessary, sustainable, and fair to taxpayers), they were say 3 times even MORE generous.

      It’s clear NJ couldn’t make those payments either, yet those who support the current pension pig-fest would even then still be blaming the much larger unfunded liability on NJ not funding it’s “share”.

      Really now ?

      Funding is NOT the Root Cause of the problem, grossly excessive Public Sector pension/benefit GENEROSITY is.(and always has been) the Root Cause of NJ’s pension problems.

      The are NO SOLUTIONS that do no include very material (AT LEAST 50%) reductions in the pension accurate rate for the FUTURE service of all CURRENT workers, and an end to retiree healthcare subsidies (beyond a few hundred dollars into an HSA). You can count on the latter being in Gov. Christie’s cross-hairs right now.

      And because neither of the above (which if enacted might just stop digging the financial hole from growing even deeper every day) addresses even $1 of the (under proper accounting) $150+ Billion unfunded liability for PAST Service accruals, we likely need a material haircut in PAST service accruals as well. A good place to start would be an across-the-board reversal of the 9% RETROACTIVELY-APPLIED pension increase put in place about 15 years ago. Being retroactive, it was nothing but a theft of taxpayer wealth, ZERO incremental service performed or “consideration” given for that pension boost.

      Reply

  2. […] they link to two stories very close to me: NJ Style Pension Funding & Diverting Money and Gov. Christie Warns of Fiscal Calamity Blames Pensions highlighting fiscal gimmickry in county […]

    Reply

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