Thursday, November 05, 2009

Public Space Question Passes

The ballot question to approve borrowing for public lands preservation passed.

With 98 percent of the state's precincts reporting as of 11:35 p.m., the ballot question was narrowly ahead - 792,336 votes for the question, or 52 percent, and 729,557 votes against it, or 48 percent.
Such a narrow margin (a little over 60,000 votes) illustrates the problem I mentioned in my last post on the issue. Leaving public lands preservation up to annual ballot issues makes future funding uncertain. While these issues tend to pass, a day may come when it fails, especially if the state's budget problems worsen under the new administration. All it would take is a major push by an opposition group in a low turnout election.

Here is what the bond will fund:
The funding includes $218 million for Green Acres open space purchases, $146 million for farmland preservation, $24 million for Blue Acres purchases of flood-prone land and $12 million for historic preservation purposes.

It's not known how much the $400 million would cost to repay, as that depends on whether the bonds are repaid over 20 years or 30 years and the interest rates obtained as the money is borrowed over the next three years. It would probably be between $600 million and $700 million, at costs of around $30 million a year at their peak.

Paying back the borrowing would amount to approximately $10 a year per household, said Tom Gilbert of the Trust for Public Land, who is also chairman of the Keep It Green coalition of 135 groups that supports the bond measure.
There is clearly majority support for land preservation in the state. It is time that the state legislature create a dedicated fund for it, so that the state does not need to increase its debt burden each time it wants to purchase land for public use.

As for the other races, I hope the NJ Environmental Federation is happy with its candidate.