Source: Assembly Republican Press Release -
Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce said she cannot support an amendment to the New Jersey Constitution that would allocate state business tax funds to pay for open space and recreation because the legislation is ill-defined, redundant and fails to reimburse property owners in the Highlands region for the loss of their property values.
DeCroce (R-Morris, Essex Passaic) says the legislation behind the amendment dedicating 4 percent of the corporate business tax to an open space fund, saddles corporations with an ongoing tax to fund, not only open space acquisition, but environmental cleanup and a host of other obligations that have nothing to do with business incentives or job creation.
“It is not the responsibility of business to pay a tax that will finance historic preservation, open space purchases and environmental remediation in perpetuity ” said DeCroce, noting that the CBT dedicated to open space and allied programs will increase to 6 percent in 2019 under the proposed amendment approved by the legislature this month. For the amendment to become law voters must approve a referendum that will appear on the November ballot.
“When state legislative leaders wonder how come New Jersey has such a poor business reputation it is precisely because of legislation such as this which stifles business investment in our state,” added DeCroce, a small business owner.
With a corporate tax rate of 9 percent on most corporations, New Jersey has the fourth highest corporate tax in the nation.
DeCroce said while she supports open space preservation, the state already taxes property owners on local and county levels for open space purchases .She said hundreds of millions of dollars are taken from taxpayers under the name of open space preservation only to find the funds being used for a variety of purposes that have nothing to do with buying undeveloped land.
“Paying for the construction of tennis courts and artificial turf football fields is not how most people imagine their open space tax money being used,” said DeCroce. “And with this new amendment, the public is again being fooled into thinking that the corporate tax will be used primarily for open space preservation, when in fact, that is not the case.”
The assemblywoman said she is particularly disturbed that in the decade since the Highlands Act became law –and more than 1,343 square miles of the state were put under severe development restrictions — there has been no action from Trenton to reimburse property owners for the devaluation of their property. The act has severely crippled the economy of many rural communities such as West Milford.
“The Highlands Act spawned the largest taking of private property rights in the state’s history without fair compensation for land owners,” said DeCroce, whose district includes several Highlands Communities.
“If the state deems it good public policy to preserve vast areas of open space by enacting extremely strict development prohibitions that make people’s land practically worthless, then it has an obligation to pay the owners for the land,” said DeCroce.
“I encourage voters to vote against the misleading and unnecessary referendum that will be placed before them on the November ballot, said DeCroce.