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N.J. Senate Proposes Doubling Open-Space Borrowing, but Voters Will Decide

The N.J. bill will go to the voters to decide on a bond issue to borrow $600 million to fund the Garden State Preservation Trust (GSPT). The GSPT protects open spaces, farm lands and preserves historic sites. GSPT funded a nonprofit grant to the New Jersey Conservation Foundation to preserve this open space, the former fish ponds at the Huey Preserve in Franklin Township.
Photo: Garden State Preservation Trust

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The N.J. State Senate Environment Committee has passed a bill that will go to the voters as a bond measure to borrow $600 million to preserve open space, farmland and historic sites.

The original bill stipulated borrowing $300 million, but the committee doubled the amount on a 4-1 vote.

The committee chairman and bill sponsor Sen. Bob Smith said the state should take advantage of depressed real estate prices now to preserve open space. Sen. Smith noted the New Jersey voters have supported every open space preservation bond measure on the ballot since the early 1960s. The question is whether the voters will pass such a bond measure, given the difficult economic climate.

The Keep It Green Campaign, a coalition of more than 100 organizations, believes the public will support the open-space bond referendum. It would be the second-largest single bond issue in New Jersey's modern history.

Not everyone is on board. At least four New Jersey environmental groups oppose the measure: the New Jersey Environmental Federation, Environment New Jersey, the New Jersey Environmental Lobby and the N.J Sierra Club Chapter. These organizations seek a steady, long-term funding source, i.e., tax revenues, not borrowed money.

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May 19, 2019, 8:21 am PDT

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