FOR RELEASE CONTACT
8/4/2014 Press office
McKeon, Spencer, Wilson, Jasey & Gusciora Open Space Preservation Proposal Gains Final Legislative OK
Resolution Permits Vote on Constitutional Amendment to Increase Share of Corporate Business Tax Revenue Allocated for Environmental Programs
Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John McKeon, L. Grace Spencer, Whip Wilson, Mila Jasey and Reed Gusciora that would provide a pathway to funding state environmental programs received Assembly approval by a vote of 58-9-1 on Monday.
The legislation (SCR-84/ACR-130) is a proposal for a November ballot measure. As per the provisions of the resolution, voters will decide this fall on whether to amend the state constitution to dedicate 4 percent of corporation business tax revenues from July 1, 2015 until June 30, 2019 and then 6 percent annually thereafter to financing the state's programs for:
· Open space preservation (Green Acres), the preservation of flood-prone areas (Blue Acres), farmland preservation and historic site preservation;
· Water resources programs and projects;
· Polluted site cleanups and
· Underground tank removal and cleanup
"Open space preservation is an issue that knows no party or ideology. It's simply about ensuring that New Jersey residents have the best possible quality of life," said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). "This desperately needed source of long-term, stable funding will go a long way toward protecting some of this state's best assets, and we know voters will support that ideal."
"One of the best things about living in New Jersey is the natural beauty that defines our state, and as the nation's most densely populated state, we have to be very careful about not letting that slip away," said Spencer (D-Essex). "Preserving and creating new open space areas helps to protect our water sources and protect the environment by preventing overdevelopment and the threat of increasing pollution in our urban areas."
"The funding outlined in this legislation is an investment in the resources that make our state a great place to live and raise a family," said Wilson (D-Camden/Gloucester). "We have a collective duty to continue preserving those resources."
"Here in the Garden State, we cherish our open space, natural resources and historic landmarks, and we must take steps now to preserve them for future generations," said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). "We must lead by example, and this resolution is our declaration of respect for the land and water our children and grandchildren will inherit."
"Aside from the inherent value of a beautiful state, investing in open space preservation is a way of boosting our economy by promoting agriculture and encouraging tourism. It's an investment that will draw people to New Jersey," said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). "A majority of voters have already expressed support for this issue, because they know it will go a long way toward keeping the Garden State green."
Gusciora noted that every dollar invested in preservation yields a $10 return.
Currently, 4 percent of corporation business tax revenues are allocated specifically for the following purposes: water quality programs, polluted site cleanups, underground tank removal and cleanup, air pollution equipment for diesel engines and improvements to parks.
The amendment would prohibit the state from using these funds to pay the principal or interest on any general obligation bonds.
The Senate passed the resolution in June by a vote of 36-1.
FOR RELEASE CONTACT
7/15/2014 Press office
Jasey Statement on Christie K-12 Education Executive Order: Making Progress Requires Accounting for the Diversity of Voices Involved
Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, Joint Committee on the Public Schools co-chair and lead sponsor of legislation (A-3081) to delay the implementation of new statewide K-12 education standards until after a task force concludes its study of the new rules, released the following statement today on Gov. Chris Christie's executive order to establish a task force comprised of nine gubernatorial appointees. The Assembly bill calls for a 15-member task force that would include members appointed by the Senate president and Assembly speaker in addition to gubernatorial appointees representing organizations dedicated to advancing K-12 education:
"The governor's action addresses some of the many issues put forth in the Assembly bill and represents a step forward. I am relieved that the impact of test scores will be reduced as we take time to examine critical discrepancies about the best way to strengthen our schools.
"That said, I do have some concerns about the ability of nine individuals who are unilaterally appointed by the administration to provide impartial evaluation of the Common Core State Standards and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers assessment - evaluation that will be critical as we work together to prepare New Jersey's students to compete in the global marketplace.
"Considerable time and effort was invested in developing a task force structure that would be representative of the many stakeholders - parents and teachers chief among them - these changes will impact. As we progress with the shared goal of improving education in New Jersey, it is my hope that the most important people in our children's lives will be included and their collective effort will lead to a productive, comprehensive examination of the role of testing and its impact on learning in New Jersey schools.
"Above all else, having listened to a variety of constituents who expressed concerns about the requirements PARCC and the Common Core demand, I believe it is imperative that the voices of our state's parents are heard and their concerns are meaningfully addressed," said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris).
Under the Assembly bill, the 15 members of the task force would include:
· Eight gubernatorial appointees - including one member each upon the recommendation of the following organizations: the American Federation of Teachers New Jersey, the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, the New Jersey Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the New Jersey Council of Vocational-Technical Schools, the New Jersey Education Association, the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, the New Jersey School Boards Association and the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network
· Three public members each - one the parent or guardian of a New Jersey public school student, one with demonstrated expertise in language arts literacy instruction and curriculum and one with demonstrated expertise in mathematics instruction and curriculum - appointed by the Senate President and the Speaker of the General Assembly; and
· The Commissioner of Education, or a designee, serving ex officio.
FOR RELEASE CONTACT
6/27/2014 Press office
Green, Singleton, Jasey, Wisniewski, Quijano & Wimberly Bill to Transform Foreclosed Homes into Affordable Housing Gets Assembly Approval
Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Jerry Green, Troy Singleton, Mila Jasey, John Wisniewski, Annette Quijano and Benjie Wimberly that would transform foreclosed properties into affordable housing was approved 47-31-1 by the full Assembly this week.
"Abandoned properties are a nuisance. They often invite criminal activity and drag down the value of other properties in the neighborhood," said Green (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union), who chairs the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee, which released the bill. "Then there is the issue of affordability in New Jersey, which is one of the most expensive states in the country to live in. This bill helps tackle both problems by taking vacant properties that are contributing nothing but headaches to neighborhoods and municipalities and repurposing them as affordable housing."
The bill (A-470), the "New Jersey Residential Foreclosure Transformation Act," would create the "New Jersey Foreclosure Relief Corporation" as a temporary entity within the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) for the purpose of purchasing foreclosed residential properties from institutional lenders and dedicating them for occupancy as affordable housing.
"Abandoned properties are a burden to municipalities, especially ones already struggling financially. They strain municipal resources, cut into property tax revenue, attract crime and undermine the quality of life of remaining residents," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "This bill would not only help rid municipalities of these troublesome properties, but replace them with affordable housing."
"Many abandoned properties have sat vacant and unmaintained for years. Not only are they costly eyesores for municipalities, they can be health and safety hazards," said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). "In a time when we are all being asked to do more with less, turning these properties into affordable housing helps towns increase revenue while providing an important resource for needy residents."
"Abandoned properties do nothing to help reinvigorate neighborhoods facing economic decline. The longer a house sits idle and deteriorated, the harder it is to reclaim them," said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). "This bill helps reduce the strain that these properties put on municipalities and on neighborhoods while creating much needed affordable housing options for low-income residents."
"The impact of the housing crisis is still felt in many neighborhoods. Vacant properties drain municipal resources and destabilize neighborhoods," said Quijano (D-Union). "Communities need healthy neighborhoods to be economically strong and people need housing they can afford. This bill helps us fulfill both needs by taking stagnant properties and putting them back to work."
"Vacant properties blight neighborhoods and depress property values, which is unfair to those remaining residents who have kept up their homes but are still affected by the repercussions through no fault of their own," said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). "By giving municipalities the power to reclaim ailing properties, we can rebuild neighborhoods that have been hit hard by foreclosures."
Under the bill, the corporation would have the authority to purchase foreclosed residential property and mortgage assets from institutional lenders to produce affordable housing and dedicate it as such for 30 years. The bill directs the corporation to enter into contracts or loans, or both, with no more than two experienced, financially sophisticated, community development financial institutions to enhance the ability of the corporation to fulfill its purpose of producing affordable housing.
The municipality where the property is located would have the right of first refusal to purchase the property and dedicate it as affordable housing. Under the bill, the municipality could purchase the property for use as affordable housing, decline to buy it, or authorize the corporation or its contractors to use monies from the municipality's affordable housing trust fund to purchase the property.
If a municipality does not exercise its right of first refusal to buy a property, the corporation may buy it and convey it for occupancy as affordable housing subject to a 30-year deed restriction to another public agency, a community development corporation, a developer, or a qualifying household.
If the corporation, its contractors or a municipality purchases an eligible property from monies deposited in a municipality's affordable housing trust fund, the municipality would receive bonus credits toward any constitutionally-imposed obligation to provide affordable housing.
The bill also establishes a mechanism through which a "foreclosure-impacted municipality" - a municipality that has 10 or more foreclosed homes listed on a multiple listing service for at least 60 days - can insulate its affordable housing trust funds from the laws that will require the transfer of its trust fund monies to the "New Jersey Affordable Housing Trust Fund." Such a municipality would have to adopt a resolution committing the expenditure of its municipal affordable housing trust fund monies for the production of affordable housing, and authorizing the transfer of at least $150,000 of its municipal affordable housing trust fund monies to the corporation to produce affordable housing.
The bill requires the corporation to use funds transferred from a foreclosure-impacted municipality to produce affordable housing within that municipality. If the corporation is unable to use the funds within two years of the date of transfer, it would have to return the remaining funds to the municipality and the municipality would have at least six months from the date the funds are returned to commit the funds in accordance with other provisions of law. During this time, all municipal trust fund monies designated for the purchase of foreclosed properties would be protected from transfer to the state. A municipality would receive bonus credits, as otherwise provided by the bill, for affordable housing produced by the corporation or by one of its contractors pursuant to this mechanism.
The bill would also create the "Foreclosure to Affordable Housing Transformation Fund," a nonlapsing, revolving fund where funds appropriated or otherwise made available for the corporation to fulfill its purposes would be stored. The HMFA would administer the fund and would be authorized to transfer into the fund any amounts it has that could be used to produce affordable housing.
The bill would also authorize HMFA to issue bonds to fund the activities of the corporation. The bill calls for prioritization of the allocation of tax-exempt private activity bonds in order to allow the corporation to fulfill the purposes of the bill. Also, in any year in which the proceeds from the Realty Transfer Fee additional fee exceed $75 million, the first $10 million above the $75 million collected would be transferred into the "Foreclosure to Affordable Housing Transformation Fund" for the production of affordable housing. The bill would authorize the Commissioner of Community Affairs to transfer into the fund certain amounts held for the production of affordable housing, including but not limited to monies deposited in the "New Jersey Affordable Housing Trust Fund."
Lastly, under the bill, the corporation would cease its operations on December 31, 2017. On that date, any assets, properties, or funds held by the corporation would transfer to the HMFA
FOR RELEASE CONTACT
6/23/2014 Press office
Quijano, Vainieri Huttle, Jasey, Benson, Singleton, Wilson, Lampitt Bill to Facilitate Financial Support to Local Libraries Receives Final Legislative Approval by Assembly
(TRENTON) - The full Assembly gave the final approval on Monday to legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Mila Jasey, Daniel Benson, Troy Singleton, Whip Wilson and Pamela Lampitt to allow taxpayers to make a voluntary contribution in support of local libraries on their gross income tax returns with a vote of 77-0.
"Budgetary constraints at the local and state level have made it difficult for many of our public libraries to operate effectively," said Quijano (D-Union). "This bill would help to bridge the gap in funding by allowing residents to make direct, monetary contributions come tax season."
"Libraries provide an essential service to our communities. For some residents, their main access to books and the Internet is through their local library branch," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "This bill gives residents the option to help preserve our public libraries by making a contribution when filing their taxes."
"Libraries are important community resources, but many are under constant threat of having to cut back on services and staff," said Jasey (D-Essex, Morris). "Enabling residents to support through their tax returns would provide much-needed infusions of funding that will help sustain our libraries and keep them in our communities."
"Lack of funding has led to some libraries closing. We cannot let that happen," said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). "We must do all that we can to ensure our libraries continue to serve in our communities. This legislation is a the way we can help fund programming and support staffing in New Jersey's libraries."
"We want our libraries to continue serving as access points for job services, information and internet access for residents," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "The services libraries offer are invaluable and deserve community support in this way."
"In many communities, our libraries are the only source of internet access, serve as community meeting places, and a refuge for children afterschool," said Wilson (D-Camden). "A tax check-off would be a great funding boost for our libraries. There is a way we can help secure their place as vital part of our communities and this is it."
"Our libraries offer invaluable services and free programming that enrich our communities," said Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). "A designated funding source for our libraries is a smart move in an unpredictable economy."
The bill (A-1314/S1803) establishes the Local Library Support Fund, a special fund where the contributions would be deposited and appropriated for the support of county and municipal libraries.
The bill requires the Department of the Treasury to turn the funds in the Local Library Support Fund over to the State Librarian, who shall annually distribute the moneys received from the fund in accordance with the State Library Aid Law.
The Assembly approved the bill in February, but will have to reconsider it for final legislative approval because of amendments.