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Open Space Question Could be on November Ballot [AUDIO]

Lawmakers couldn’t reach an agreement earlier this week and a vote on a measure that would put a question on the November ballot to help preserve open space and farmland in the Garden State was canceled, it appears a deal has been reached.

Morris County open space
Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media

Assemblyman John McKeon says new legislation will be introduced today in both the State Senate and the General Assembly.

The original idea was to ask voters if they’d like to amend the State Constitution to save open space by dedicating one-fifth of one penny of collected sales taxes over the next three decades. Economic models suggest that could total roughly $17 billion that could be used to fund other programs and keep the budget balanced. Even open space supporters thought that might be too much money.

“We’re still going to go with the same concept of a permanent source of funding through a portion of the sales tax, but we’re going to cap that at no more than $200 million a year,” explains McKeon. “It still does strand, if you will, a significant amount that can give us even more challenges each year when we’re balancing our budget, but in New Jersey there’s really only a million acres left to preserve.”

The resolutions seeking the constitutional amendment must layover for 20 days after being introduced. Typically, a public hearing is also needed, but McKeon says because so much testimony on the issue has already been given, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and Senate President Steve Sweeney could waive the committee process altogether and put the measures up for votes in both full houses of the legislature.

In order to get the question on this November’s ballot it must receive 24 votes in the Senate and 48 votes in the Assembly before August 3.

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