Today, Eric Benson, Clean Water Action's NJ Campaign Director, testified at the first of two Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee public hearings on Governor Phil Murphy’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2023.
"The families of New Jersey need a budget that treats clean drinking water, clean air, and a livable climate future as priorities. We must do more, and we can do more." Read Eric's full testimony below, then be sure to make your voice heard! Email your budget concerns to ABUBudgetHearings@njleg.org and SBABudgetHearings@njleg.org. Public input on the budget is critical - please sign up to testify during the second public Senate session being held Tuesday, April 21st.
"I am glad to see this proposed budget makes landmark investments in housing, education, and pension payments. New Jersey is flush with cash and not afraid to spend money on areas that will help middle and working class families.
Unfortunately, this budget, as proposed, continues the nearly 20 year trend of neglecting the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), clean energy, and mass transit. Middle class and working class families need clean water to drink, safe air to breathe, mass transit to ride, and a healthy climate future for their children. This budget misses the opportunity to make historic investments in the environment and climate. And when it comes to climate change, we may not have many more opportunities left to address the coming crisis.
Spending on the NJ DEP has remained flat since 2005. Accounting for inflation, that is actually a 40% cut over that time frame. While other departments that were cut during the pandemic have been restored, and some are seeing massive investments, the DEP continues to have to beg for cash. This has real consequences. The DEP is already years behind on key projects including finalizing the rules for climate pollution reduction, environmental justice, recycling food waste, and making our coastline more resilient. This is because they simply lack the staff capacity to get these projects done. So while you, the legislators, pass laws to protect our environment, the underfunded and understaffed DEP is forced to just add them to their To-Do list. Our state is taking victory laps for accomplishments we have not actually implemented.
Meanwhile, NJ Transit and the Clean Energy Fund continue to be the victims of budget gimmicks. Why are we moving money from clean energy to mass transit rather than properly funding both? It’s not as if the state doesn't have the money right now. Our state’s economy needs a reliable mass transit system with growing capacity to keep our economy strong, and we need investments in clean energy to position our state as a clean energy leader, but this budget simply moves money between these priorities.
Which brings me to the biggest disappointment in this draft budget: the lack of urgency to fund the fight for a livable climate future. New Jersey’s middle class and working families definitely need the historic investments in housing, affordability, and education, BUT we also need a safe and stable future for our children to inherit. The state as a whole is not on track to achieve the governor’s goal of cutting emissions 50% by 2030, and the small investments in wind and green jobs in the draft budget are not going to get us there. We need to be making comprehensive investments right now. We need to make sure these public investments are directed towards those most affected by the rising costs, and deadly impacts of climate change.
We are running out of time to make a meaningful impact on emissions before the worst impacts of climate change become our New Jersey children’s future. And we have the money to spend right now!
The families of NJ need a budget that treats clean drinking water, clean air, and a livable climate future as priorities. We must do more, and we can do more. Thank you."