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Christie’s budget attacks NJDEP and clean energy economy

titteljeff042411_optBY JEFF TITTEL
COMMENTARY

Governor Christie continues to attack our clean energy economy and the environment and promote harmful policies through his 2012-13 budget. This is a continuation of the damage done by his last two budgets, hurting the environment and economy.

Again the governor is diverting money from the Clean Energy Fund and the state Department of Environmental Protection to close budget gaps. This budget will negatively impact job creation, public health, and our environment.

The governor is giving tax cuts to millionaires with the money that should be going to clean energy programs and protecting our environment. This not only hurts the environment but our economy and job creation.

The governor is taking $210 million out of the Clean Energy Fund. This money is supposed to be dedicated to energy efficiency, weatherization, and renewable energy. This is the money that gives you a rebate when you buy a new energy efficient appliance or furnace and the governor is taking this money to give a tax cut to millionaires. The fund gets between $240 and $260 million a year so the governor is taking almost all of it.

This fund comes from a small fee on our energy bill that is supposed to be dedicated to these clean energy programs. The governor has already diverted $107 million from the fund in 2011-12. Two years ago $400 million in clean energy monies was diverted from the Clean Energy Fund, the Retail Margin Fund, RGGI and other sources.

The governor is trying to balance his budget on the back of the environment by raiding the Clean Energy Fund. This means not only more pollution, but a loss of jobs in New Jersey. This will cost our state up to 3,000 jobs from energy efficiency programs to installing solar panels.

The DEP currently has 2,877 positions and the governor wants to cut that back to 2,829 under the budget. In 2008 they had 3,400 employees. DEP staff is down by almost 40 percent since the mid-1990’s when the department had 4,400 employees and the operating budget was $329 million in 1995.

DEP staffing is already at a record low and with the hiring freeze in place many positions remain unfilled as staff retires. There are probably hundreds of positions that are unfilled. While the DEP’s staffing continues to be cut drastically, major programs have been added including clean cars, Highlands, and global warming. With the economy starting to turn around there may not be even be enough staff to write the permits to help get businesses and our economy going.



 

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