Legislators representing areas of the Jersey Shore that were hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy have questioned whether a constitutional amendment that would dedicate $200 million annually for open space preservation may come at the expense of ongoing Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts in future years. Senators Robert Singer (R-30), Christopher Connors (R-9) and Jim Holzapfel (R-10) issued the following statement questioning the inflexibility of the open space funding plan:
“We’ve heard for years how tight the state’s budget situation is, so we are extremely concerned that the constitutional dedication of $200 million of state revenue annually to open space preservation will come at the expense of other critical needs like continuing Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.
“In recent weeks, we’ve heard an increasing number of reports that homeowners are having great difficulty getting the federal disaster assistance that they thought they were promised. Some residents have been told that federal programs are out of money, while others have been notified that they were disqualified from receiving assistance due to income restrictions that weren’t in place for recovery efforts following previous storms like Katrina.
“At some point, after all of the federal recovery aid has been disbursed, we may need to assess whether gaps remain in our recovery efforts that would require additional state assistance.
“Given that uncertainty going forward regarding what kind of additional assistance our residents will need to make their homes livable, and the likelihood that state financial resources are unlikely to greatly increase in coming years, we believe it is the wrong time to pass a constitutional amendment that ties the state’s hands financially.
“We are all supporters of open space preservation, but we need to balance that desire against the absolute need for our communities to rebuild and for families to move back into their homes. In this time of recovery, we need the financial flexibility to act quickly, something the current open space proposal would rob us of at exactly the wrong time.”