Thursday, July 2, 2009

Senator Smith saves recycling -- in New Jersey

Recycling in New Jersey--once a national model--had been on a down slide for years until the state Legislature, despite significant opposition, passed legislation last year that re-imposed a recycling tax on garbage.

When Governor Corzine signed the legislation into law, the state's recycling community was elated and re-energized. Recycling coordinators knew that revenue from the tax would go into a dedicated state fund and would be used to support local recycling efforts--based on how successful each county and town was in removing cans, bottles, paper and other 'recyclables' from the
waste stream.

Recycling coordinators began planning ways to pump up their programs. Some ordered new equipment. Some entered into agreements with commercial recyclers for single-stream pickups which eliminate the need for residents and businesses to separate paper from metal and metal from glass. Others laid out plans for new educational and collection plans in schools and for tougher enforcement efforts to insure compliance.

Then along came the state budget crunch. In a last-minute strategy to balance the current fiscal year's budget--as the Legislature was working out final details on next year's FY 2010 spending plan--the Corzine Administration pushed through a supplemental appropriations bill that transferred money from a number of existing program accounts into the General Fund.

Part of that re-appropriation included grabbing $7 million from the state's newly revitalized Recycling Fund.

The reaction of municipal and county recycling coordinators, who were counting on the money to pay for programs and equipment they had already committed to, ranged from consternation to near panic. Then Bob Smith stepped in.

Smith, a veteran state legislator from Middlesex County, is the Democratic chairman of the Senate Environment Committee and a long-time supporter of recycling.

He was the sponsor in the Senate of the legislation that refunded the recycling program and author of a 'poison pill' provision within the bill that basically said the money could only be used for recycling.

Recognizing that previous Administrations, in times of budget stress, have ignored such legal limitations, Smith made a personal plea to Governor Jon Corzine. He explained the benefits of recycling and the reasons for the 'poison pill' language. He then told the governor: "If you allow this to happen, you will kill recycling in New Jersey."

What followed sounds like a Hollywood ending. The governor listened and was persuaded. He promised Smith that his staff would look elsewhere for the $7 million.

An amazing story, but true. Thanks to Senator Smith, recycling in New Jersey has been saved--again.

In the interest of full disclosure, we alert our readers to the fact

that EnviroPolitics' sister company, Brill Public Affairs, counts
the Association of New Jersey Recyclers (ANJR) among its
government-relations clients. ___________________________________________________

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