News From New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania

By Christina Fisher | September 28, 2010

Governor Corzine Approves Highlands Master Plan

Governor Jon S. Corzine gave his approval to a long-range plan to protect environmental and natural resources in New Jersey's Highlands, and issued an executive order designed to further protect the region. The plan will protect environmentally sensitive areas in the Highlands of Northern New Jersey, which provide a source of drinking water for more than 60 percent of the state's residents.

In addition, Governor Corzine issued a five-point executive order to further strengthen the protections provided by the master plan. The executive order provides for:

  • The reauthorization of the Garden State Preservation Trust to ensure an ample supply of funds for purchasing open spaces;
  • The earmarking of $10 million to begin the process of purchasing development credits from those who want to remain on farmland in the Highlands;
  • Directing the state Department of Environmental Protection to restrict permits for new development that drains water from undeveloped regions in the Highlands Planning Area where water is deficient;
  • Directing the Council on Affordable Housing to work with the Highlands Council to ensure that nothing — not even affordable housing needs — impedes the protection of Highlands water; and
  • Directing the Highlands Council to ensure that all future planning decisions be done in an open and transparent manner, and open to public comment.

Conditions For State Investment In Moynihan Station

New York Governor David A. Paterson recently announced conditions related to the future of Moynihan Station. In a speech to construction and real estate executives hosted by the New York Building Congress, Governor Paterson called on his colleagues to work together to invest in the state's infrastructure and increase intercity passenger rail transportation capacity.

The governor's specific conditions include ensuring that the Moynihan Station project increases transportation capacity by physically expanding the number of tracks and platforms and instituting operational changes by Long Island Railroad, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak. It also includes coordinating the development of Moynihan Station in tandem with other major development projects including New Jersey's Access to the Region's Core (ARC), which is the first crossing under the Hudson in 50 years, and taking necessary steps to ensure that the project also helps to revitalize the surrounding community.

"Increasing our transportation capacity is an important step, but it is only one step. We must ensure that we carefully coordinate the improved capacity with other major development and infrastructure projects, which is why today I called on my Deputy Secretary for Economic Development and Infrastructure to convene all of the project's partners from both the public and private sectors to discuss the challenges they face," Governor Paterson continued. "Deputy Secretary Gilchrist will report back to me with an assessment of these challenges and potential solutions."

Governor Rendell Announces Plan To Maintain Balanced Budget

As the weakness in the national economy begins to be felt in Pennsylvania, Governor Edward G. Rendell said he is directing commonwealth agencies to reduce spending and eliminate out-of-state travel. He also instructed cabinet members to fill vacancies only in the rarest of occasions. The combined actions will help keep the budget balanced and are expected to save $200 million in the current fiscal year, he said.

The governor said he has directed his cabinet secretaries to identify 4.25 percent of their enacted budgets from which reductions may be made. Agencies that provide public safety, health and education services will have smaller percentage targets to meet. The funds saved will be put into budgetary reserve, he said. Vital services provided by the commonwealth should not be affected by the cutbacks.

As part of the across-the-board fiscal controls, the governor is prohibiting out-of-state travel by commonwealth employees, board members and commissioners, effective immediately.

The governor also announced a general hiring freeze, effective immediately. The freeze applies to salaried positions, wage positions, annuitants (retired commonwealth employees who have returned to work part-time) and other temporary staff, as well as paid interns.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 13 other states are reporting new budget shortfalls, just two months after enacting budgets. Last week Ohio announced a 4.75-percent across-the-board cut to state agencies to trim $540 million from its current budget.