New Jersey Ag News
Meanwhile, back at the office ... (Editorial)
(Feb. 1, 2016) When New Jersey Gov. Chris Cristie left the presidential campaign trail in mid-January, he found somewhat of a mess waiting for him back in the Garden State.
There were 90 bills awaiting his review, and his pen, on his desk, the product of a lame duck session of the state legislature.
The New Jersey Farm Bureau called it “a stunning amount of executive action in one shot, probably created by the governor’s considerable distraction from his New Jersey duties by his ongoing quest of the Republican nomination to be president.”
One of those bills, much to the dismay of the Farm Bureau, would have secured the mechanism for open space and farmland preservation funding, a critical ongoing necessity in the nation’s most urban and suburban state.
New Jersey Farm Bureau President Ryck Suydam expressed his disappointment and dismay over the governor’s so-called “pocket veto” of the measure.
A pocket veto allows a bill approved by both houses on the final day of a legislative session to expire without the governor having to say yes or no.
Last November, 65 percent of New Jersey voters approved a permanent plan to fund the state’s ag land and open space preservation efforts from the corporate business tax.
That nevertheless requires a measure from the legislature approving the appropriation.
Here’s what happened, according to NJFB Executive Director Peter Furey.
The corporate business tax revenue transfer is about $81 million a year.
The Christie administration moved $14 million, via appropriation in the state budget, for Department of Environmental Protection parks maintenance spending.
That move was questionable under the intent of the ballot question , but it went through, Furey said.
There was also an attempt to take another $20 million for DEP capital projects , but it was eventually shot down by the legislature’s accountants
The legislature on its final day attempted to appropriate the $67 million left in the corporate business tax kitty, to force the governor’s hand.
That’s what Christie put in his pocket, effectively short-circuiting the legislature and the voters of the Garden State.
Note that a pocket veto sidesteps the need to make a public statement on why he refused to approve the bill.
And in this case, the governor’s spokesman made no attempt at a comment, saying instead that the legislature passing so many bills at once “is never a good formula for effectively doing public business.”
Then, before Christie could get back on the campaign trial, Mother Nature sent a storm named Jonas to ravage the Jersey Shore and demand priority attention from the governor.
We agree that state lawmakers, all at once, tossing 90 bills on the governor’s desk, even if he were in his office, guaranteed that he would not be able to give them the attention they deserve.
At some point, however, we believe that Christie is going to have to say “yes” (or “no”) to ag land and open space preservation.
Surely he has a conviction on that topic.
He has been generally favorable of agriculture.
But that will have to wait.
The governor returned to the campaign trail as soon Jonas headed out to sea.
He has a few other things on his plate.