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FY22 Budget Letter to Gov. Murphy on Clean Energy Fund & NJ Transit Funding

Dear Governor Murphy,                                                 February 2020                 

On behalf of Jersey Renews, a coalition of 65 labor, environmental, faith and community groups, we would like to state key FY2022 state budget priorities regarding the investments for climate action and green jobs for New Jersey Transit and the state’s Clean Energy Fund.

We greatly appreciate your commitment to bold action on climate change, and we know you aim to craft a state budget that reflects that commitment. Such a budget requires: 1) dedicated funding source for New Jersey Transit (NJT) to avoid further raids, expand service, and ensure safe and equitable access to mobility; 2) safeguarding the Clean Energy Fund (CEF) for its intended purpose; and 3) supporting sustainable, just workforce development policy that provides pathways to good jobs, and at the same time restores healthy and efficient homes and communities.

We recognize you have inherited a fiscal mess aggravated by the pandemic, but between federal stimulus funds expected from the Biden Administration, Parkway and Turnpike toll increases, the COVID-19 Emergency Bond Act, the corporate incentives bill, increased revenue from the millionaire’s tax and other progressive revenue sources, there is a way to fully fund NJT and to end the raids on the Clean Energy Fund. Given your campaign promise to end these raids and the overlapping health, racial injustice and climate crises we face, this is the year to fulfill this promise.

New Jersey Transit has faced a funding crisis for a generation, as its capital budget has been consistently mis-used to pay for operating expenses. The root of the crisis is that funding is overly dependent on the farebox and has no dedicated source of funding not immune to the budget cycle. That is the primary reason why we have seen five fare hikes in the last two decades, and the ongoing raids from the CEF. 

Especially in the age of COVID, where ridership has plateaued at severely diminished levels for rail and only recovered half its passenger load for buses, NJT is facing an ongoing ridership crisis which can’t be solved with cuts and fare hikes. To avoid a death spiral for NJT’s service, there needs to be a dedicated infusion of state funds on an annual basis that will last much longer than any federal infusion of recovery funds. These funds should end the ongoing raids of NJT capital budget and the CEF and be modeled on the dedicated funding streams for every other major transit agency in America.

The Clean Energy Fund has yet to be made whole during your administration, and is too often seen as a rainy day fund for other state priorities including NJT and the General Fund. The CEF should receive $344 million per year from ratepayers and it is imperative that the money goes back to ratepayers in the form of cleaner electricity, lower electricity rates, and air pollution improvements. In the past five years, an average of $135.9 million has been diverted from the CEF each year, with a cut of $102 million in the 9-month FY21 budget which you just signed into law.

Between the FY20 and FY21 Clean Energy Fund budgets, we have seen a $78 million cut in funding for energy efficiency, most notably $15 million less for residential programs, $11 million less for low-income residential programs, and $21 million less for commercial and industrial programs. These cuts in such crucial areas have had widespread impacts on community members and businesses that desperately need short and long-term support to reduce energy burdens and monthly bills. We urge you to end these raids now and help us resolve these crises faster.

Raids to the CEF also compromise your commitment to a stronger and fairer New Jersey. The current program has minimal funding to promote clean energy workforce development, a critical part of building the green economy and to create an equitable COVID recovery. The initial $2.5 million investment in last year’s extended budget included a multitude of programs to expand and diversify the energy efficiency workforce including: 1) Workforce Development Grant Programs for NGOs, community groups, vo-tech schools, technical training facility, Labor Union Apprenticeship Programs, and colleges and universities; 2) Incentive-based mentoring and apprenticeship programs with contractors, 3) Enhanced incentives for hiring local contractors and 4) Support for minority, veteran, women and low-and-moderate-income owned businesses and contractors. We need to expand these programs and invest more in them using the dollars that are currently diverted.

It is critical that the Clean Energy Fund is protected in FY22, as it offers a wide range of programs to reduce air pollution, develop clean and renewable sources of energy, and create good, family sustaining jobs (and especially because there are a number of new proposals to allocate funding).  This is especially imperative in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with health risk directly correlated to air pollution exposure, which consistently falls along lines of race and class, meaning that raids to the Clean Energy Fund do further damage in the most overburdened communities.

Accordingly, it is more urgent than ever that New Jersey invest in protecting the health of communities and workers. This includes safe, accessible, affordable mass transit and protection from air pollution and climate change, which pose the greatest risk to the communities and essential workers already hit hardest by the pandemic. Please seize this opportunity to build a budget that sets New Jersey on track for a just, green recovery by fully funding NJT and the Clean Energy Fund.

We would welcome the opportunity to share these concerns directly with your staff with a meeting, and we hope these investments will be a key part of your FY22 proposed budget.

Respectfully,

Berenice Tompkins, Campaign Organizer, Jersey Renews

Debra Coyle McFadden, Executive Director, NJ Work Environment Council

Doug O’Malley, Director, Environment New Jersey

Rev. Fletcher Harper, Executive Director, GreenFaith

Amy Goldsmith, Executive Director, Clean Water Action

Jeff Tittel, Executive Director, NJ Sierra Club

Luke Gordon, Staff Coordinator, USW District 4

Janna Chernetz, Deputy Director, Tri-State Transportation Campaign

Ben Haygood, Environmental Health Policy Director, Isles

Rev. Ronald Tuff, 2nd Vice Chair, Black Issues Convention

Renee Koubiadis, Executive Director, Anti-Poverty Network

Kevin Brown, SEIU 32 BJ, Vice-President and NJ State Director

Sue Altman, Executive Director, NJ Working Families Alliance

Brandon McKoy, President, New Jersey Policy Perspective

Dena Mottola Jaborska, Deputy Director, NJ Citizen Action

John Reichman, Environmental Chair, BlueWave NJ

Nat Bollinger, Regional Plan Association

Todd Wolfson, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT

Margaret Kelly, Director of Field Services, UFCW Local 152

Carol Gay, President, NJ State Industrial Union Council

Elena Weissman, Mid-Atlantic Regional Director, Vote Solar

Richard Lawton, Director, NJ Sustainable Business Council

Emma Horst-Martz, Advocate, NJ Public Interest Research Group

Charles Loflin, Acting Executive Director, UU Faith Action

JoAnna Cantarino, Co-Chair, NJ Student Sustainability Coalition

Christine Clarke, Jefferson Democrats

Sid Madison, Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War