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Murphy is Told He Needs To Do More for Pinelands

by Tom Johnson, Energy/Environment Writer, NJ Spotlight News

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Gov. Phil Murphy ought to pay more attention to the Pinelands by increasing its funding and filling long-running vacancies on the commission overseeing the 1-million-acre preserve, advocates said recently.

In its 17th annual state-of-the-Pinelands report, the Pinelands Preservation Alliance faulted the governor and Legislature for not increasing funds to add needed staff at the commission, allowing the corporate-business tax surcharge to expire, and failing to fill three open seats on the Pinelands Commission.

“Gov. Murphy needs to do more for the Pinelands,’’ said Jaclyn Rhoads, assistant executive director of the Pinelands Commission.

The expiration of the corporate-business tax surcharge means the loss of $44 million this year, funds that could help pay for acquisition of open space in the Pinelands and state parks.

Besides not providing more funds to hire staff, Murphy reduced funding for a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program for open space acquisition. He also failed to fill three open seats on the commission, including one held by long-time commissioner Ed Lloyd, who died last summer. However, Jessica Ritter Sanchez, first nominated more than five years ago, was confirmed by the Senate near the end of last year.