the staff off the Ridgewood blog
Trenton NJ, Senator Steven Oroho has sent a letter to Senator Paul Sarlo, chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, calling for at least one Senate Budget Committee meeting to be open to public testimony. The public is currently not allowed to attend any of the Budget hearings. Committee members, invitees, and staff will participate from remote locations using video conferencing technology. The public may view the meeting through the State Legislatures homepage.
“The public needs to be able to testify in order to lay out the problems in the budget, but the legislature is shutting the public out. We agree with Senator Oroho in calling for public testimony for the budget hearings. The proposed budget FY2021 is complicated and will have long term impacts to NJ. Therefore the public needs to have a voice. During this health emergency, we need to realize that this is a fiscal emergency. It is critical for the legislature and the Murphy Administration to understand the public’s perspective and needs in this process. The lack of public participation just reduces transparency and trust,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We support Senator Oroho’s request to allow public testimony during the budget hearings. This budget will impact each and everyone one of us and it’s only right that we are able to participate in the process.”
The DEP State Operational Budget FY 2021 is $223 million. This is a $44 million drop compared to the FY2019, DEP Operational Budget that was adjusted to $267 million and a $30 million drop from the Operational Budget FY2020 that was $253 million. The overall DEP budget was cut by $189 million. FY2021, DEP has been allocated $368 million for 12 months and $159 million for 9 months. The Budget FY2021 cut DEP staff salaries by $22 million. Money for lead abatement and clean water is down $20 million and funding for the Clean Energy Fund is down $40 million.
“In order to have an effective budget, there needs to be a public process. Cutting out the public undermines that. This budget will have real consequences for New Jersey. It cuts funds for DEP, raids funds like the Clean Energy Fund, and cuts programs that protect our clean water and clean up hazardous sites. This is a challenging time as we engage in dealing with our response to the epidemic. New Jersey must use this pandemic as a way for major changes on dealing with how we do business and how we protect our environment even more. We understand the need to fill the budget gaps, but we cannot keep using environmental programs to fill those gaps. We need to be investing in the environment because that is an investment in ourselves and our future,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Our budget needs to be green. More importantly, the budget process needs to have an open dialogue between our government officials and the residents whose quality of life will be most affected.”