From a June 23rd article by Matt Friedman in the Star-Ledger:
TRENTON — Armed with a poll that showed overwhelming public support for their plan to save New Jersey’s out-of-cash open space trust fund, environmentalists and lawmakers from both parties today called on state Assembly leaders to act on it.
The state Senate has been moving quickly on a constitutional amendment (SCR84/ACR130) to ask voters if they would support requiring 4 percent of the Corporation Business Tax currently dedicated to environmental programs be used specifically to fund open space programs. It would then increase the share to 6 percent of the corporation business tax after five years.
But Assembly leaders have been reluctant to put it up for a vote.
“It’s really important that we do that in the next week, and we’re hopeful that the Assembly will take this up. That’s really the critical point,” said Ed Potosnak, executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation voters.
To get the proposed amendment on the ballot in November , both the Senate and Assembly would need to pass the resolution with three-fifth majorities by Aug. 2.
“I think we all can agree that the most successful land preservation program in the most densely populated state is now out of money, and we need to do something about that,” said Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex), a sponsor.
The amendment has already been through committees in the Senate, and state Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex), its sponsor, said the full Senate will vote on it Thursday.
But the Assembly Democratic leadership has not committed to advancing it, and members typically do not return to Trenton much during the summer after passing the budget by June 30.
“If this question gets on the ballot, it will pass. New Jersey voters have been very supportive of open space funding in the past,” said state Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-Somerset), who is also a sponsor. “The obstacle here is really the Assembly. The Senate has done their job.”
The change would fund the program with $71 million a year for the first five years, and $117 million a year after that, according to an estimate from the Office of Legislative Services.
According to a poll commissioned by NJ Keep it Green, 76 percent of voters said they would support the constitutional amendment – including majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents.
“It’s the strongest level of support I have seen in 30 years. If the Legislature has the foresight to put this on the ballot, there’s no question in mind that it will be overwhelmingly approved by the people in the state,” said Smith. “This is the moment for open space farmland preservation and historic preservation. There’s no more money…. There’s a good chance this program will be totally lost.”
The poll of 600 likely voters was conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maulin, Metz & Associates and Public Opinion Strategies. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.