By Tom Johnson, Courtesy of NJ Spotlight
It looks like the lame-duck legislative session will end next week without any consensus on how to fund the state’s program to preserve open spaces, farmland, and historic structures.
Tomorrow, the Senate is scheduled to act on a bill (SCR-165) that would ask voters in a fall referendum to constitutionally dedicate up to $200 million a year from the state’s sales tax to protect open spaces. But even if the measure wins approval, it is not scheduled to be taken up by the Assembly on Monday -- the final day of the current two-year legislative session.
Meanwhile, the approach favored by the Assembly late last year -- a bill (A-4541) that takes the more traditional tack of asking voters to approve a $200 million bond issue next November -- is mired in the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, which is not scheduled to meet on Monday. The Legislature is controlled by Democrats, but the impasse is unusual because in the past open-space funding has proved to be one of the state’s most popular programs, enjoying broad bipartisan support. Gov. Chris Christie vowed to come up with a stable source of funding for open space during his initial run for office but has never fulfilled that promise.
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