For Immediate Release:
September 17th, 2020
Contact: Berenice Tompkins, cell: 914-564-3094
Trenton – Jersey Renews, a coalition of over sixty labor, environmental, and community organizations, released a letter today to guide the FY21 budget. We believe that New Jersey does not have to choose between recovering from COVID-19 and addressing pollution and climate change — in fact, taking action on climate offers a historic opportunity to invest in communities hit hardest by the pandemic and put people back to work.
In order to achieve a just, green recovery from the COVID-19 and economic crises, New Jersey will need to expend considerable resources, and we can’t spend what we don’t have. “Given the COVID pandemic, spotlight on racial injustices and looming climate crisis, it’s beyond critical for New Jersey to raise revenue from those who can most afford to pay,” said Amy Goldsmith, director of Clean Water Action NJ. “It is equally important to prioritize the spending of state funds on programs that protect New Jerseyans who are most vulnerable to economic, social and environmental health harms on a daily basis. That’s why we’re calling for right siding NJ’s tax and fee structures with regards to millionaires, inherited wealth, and high end financial transactions. In doing so, we can increase funding for lead poisoning, clean energy, mass transit, and so many other critical, chronically underfunded programs.”
We call on the Legislature to follow the recommendations laid out extensively in our Roadmap to a Just, Green Recovery released this summer to ensure that we make the investments needed to recover from the immediate impact of COVID-19 and build a more sustainable, equitable future for New Jersey. In that vein, the FY21 budget should reflect those priorities and include the following recommendations:
- Establish a sustainable and equitable revenue structure by implementing progressive revenue streams like a millionaire’s tax, ending tax breaks for the wealthy and corporate financial loopholes so that we can raise more than $1 billion in new revenue.
- Rescue NJ Transit by identifying a dedicated long-term funding source and fully and equitably utilizing TCI revenue.
- Invest in public health by fully funding charity care, providing supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect our frontline health workers, and fully funding University Hospital.
- Reduce raids to the Clean Energy Fund, which funds low-income weatherization assistance and energy efficiency incentives, community solar and whole home retrofit programs, and the EV rebate to incentive electric vehicle adoption.
- Restore healthy homes by putting all Lead Hazard Control Funds into a renewed $10 millon Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund (LHCAF) and allotting $80 million for the State Revolving Fund to provide grants and loans for safe water infrastructure.
- Build climate resilience by creating a dedicated, long-term flood resilience funding source, including support for municipal-level resilience projects, investment to build Blue Acres into a comprehensive floodplain restoration program, and dedicated funding for Community and Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster.
“Every year’s budget is a moral document,” said Rev. Ronald Tuff, NJ State Organizer with GreenFaith. “In the midst of COVID, this is more true than ever. 2021 budgetary choices have implications that are beyond political horse-trading – issues of basic transportation, health, and environmental safety. We’re counting on our political leaders to keep these priorities as they should be – beyond politics – and to invest in the state’s future.”
“The State budget will be our action plan to address the economic crisis caused by COVID. We acknowledge the enormous financial hurdles we must overcome and call on the State to chart a new direction to a just, green economy,” said Debra Coyle McFadden, director of New Jersey Work Environment Council. “We must enact progressive revenue raisers, such as the millionaire’s tax and close corporate loopholes, that will add sustainable revenue sources that would limit future raids on dedicated funds such as the clean energy fund. Simultaneously, we need to invest in public health, mass transit, public sector workers and create opportunities for good, green jobs that are inclusive and pay a family sustaining living wage.”
“New Jersey’s budget needs to be green and focus on a green economy. Especially because of the coronavirus, we have to understand the importance of funding the environment and protecting people’s health. The state has to move forward on green jobs. The DEP needs enough funding to make sure there are enough people to keep lead out of our water, keep our air clean and clean up toxic sites. 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.
“Budgets are always a vision for the future. During the COVID-19 era and this moment of crisis, we urge the Legislature to embrace a budget that doesn’t slash programs that protect our public health like the Clean Energy Fund and fully fund NJ Transit in their moment of crisis from the Turnpike Authority as pledged in May,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “More than ever, we need a budget that is green and just and funds our state agencies to help us recover and invest in the clean energy economy and the public good.”
“As a coastal state on the front lines of climate impacts, we can’t afford to refrain from investing in a just transition to renewable energy, cleaner transportation, lower emissions and well-paying jobs in solar, wind, storage and energy efficiency work. The recovery from covid-19 must be a green recovery for sake of public health, safety and economic wellness, inclusive of tax fairness provisions to ensure we fund the clean energy investments that protect us long-term,” said Christine Clarke, Jersey Renews steering committee member.
“Climate change is an economic and health crisis of its own, and addressing it is part of a health and economic recovery budget,” said Berenice Tompkins, Jersey Renews Campaign Organizer with NJ WEC. “Fully funding New Jersey Transit will allow the agency to expand service, protect transit workers, ensure other essential workers can get to work safely and clean up air pollutants that exacerbate COVID-19 risk. If we keep the Clean Energy Fund whole, we can help safeguard NJ from a constant deluge of storms, fund efficiency improvements that will bring long-term savings to low-income New Jerseyans, and create workforce development opportunities in communities hit hardest by the pandemic – all at the same time.”
Read the full letter of recommendations here.
About Jersey Renews
Jersey Renews is a broad coalition of labor, environment, and faith organizations working to make New Jersey a leader in climate policy by increasing clean energy infrastructure, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and ensuring good, family-sustaining jobs in the transition to a clean energy economy. www.jerseyrenews.org