Bill to Help Lake Hopatcong Stalls in Committee

Amount had already been cut from $400,000 to $150,000.

Bill S 495, which would provide $150,000 in funding for Lake Hopatcong, was not moved out of the Senate Budget and Appropriations committee on Monday, according to an article on PolitickerNJ.

The article said state Democrats held the bill because they understood that Gov. Chris Christie would veto any spending bill that came across his desk that unless there was a proposal to cut spending.

“The Governor was very unambiguous,” Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37) said to PolitickerNJ. “He didn’t leave any opening here.”

The bill, which originally appropriated $400,000 for lake maintenance, was amended to $150,000 during the committee’s meeting, but still couldn’t make it out of committee.

Sen. Paul Sarlo, (D-36), chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, told PolitickerNJ he supported the measure, but added the governor “took this committee to task and took its members to task.”

Bucco said that he wanted the $15,0,000 to keep this lake pristine," He called it “very immature” to make the proposal a partisan issue, saying the lake and surrounding area ultimately generates tens of millions of dollars in revenue.

Lake Hopatcong resident and advocate Tim Clancy, was also disappointed with the decision.

“This is just a silly political game, where everyone is so buy poking the other side that nothing ever gets done,” Clancy said.

He also believes this is too small of an amount.

“$150,000? Why bother,” Clancy said. “The fact is, if the governor wanted funding for Lake Hopatcong he could walk down the hall and tell his DEP director to make it happen. That wouldn’t even swing the meter for the DEP.”

Clancy sees the only viable option as a user fee.

“The only viable solution, and it will come one day, hopefully before it's too late, is implementation of a user fee so that the lake is not at the mercy of the shifting political winds.  I go fishing; I buy a fishing license, golfers pay tee fees, beach goers buy beach passes, but we expect good fishing, well maintained courses and safe and clean beaches.  What is so hard to understand about that concept?  At least with a user fee we would finally be in charge of our own destiny,” he said. “It is sad to say but I think we have to sink further and the lake's environment will have to suffer tremendously before we get to the only viable funding solution.”

Lake Hopatcong Commission chairman Russell Felter was not available to comment for this story.

John Kurzman October 02, 2012 at 03:30 PM
The senate has denied these bills every year since 2002 with the same theme every time: If Republicans want us to tighten our belt, we’ll start with something that they want instead. The Senate is sort of like the wife who buys the groceries and cooks dinner, and when the husband complains that they’re no longer meeting their budget, simply cuts out everything that the husband wants, just to make the point. But here, the Democrats are hurting the State, because money spent at Lk Hopatcong generates much more money than invested, and ultimately increases state income (& jobs) way beyond the funding that helps generate it. I recommended this funding source that's in the bill to the LHC Funding Committee about 5 years ago: Only lake boaters must purchase a ‘boat’ license in addition to the safety certificate. This isn't required on tidal waters. Simply dedicate SOME of the tax/fees to maintaining the resources that generate those fees. Sort of like using some of the Fishing license fees to help maintain fish habitat, but specifically dedicate some of the boat license fees instead. Somehow that needs to be 'cut'? Ironically, the LHA discovered that many of these nontidal fees were going to tidal (shore) projects! Adding another tax to the boating and fishing license fees already paid is not the answer, especially if the money can’t legally be kept here. Many other funds have been raided by the state once the tax is added, and this would be no different.
John Kurzman October 04, 2012 at 11:25 PM
Btw, see http://jefferson.patch.com/articles/lake-hopatcong-commission-loses-state-funding#comments from july 2011 for more perspective on funding for Lake Hopatcong. Back then, the state decided NOT to start collecting an up to $45 saltwater fishing user fee even though the federal government was requiring states to start a user registration. At the same time, the state found $44Million for barnegat bay and saltwater project grants, none of which lake hopatcong can apply for. Also at the same time, the state turned down $400k to lake hopatcong, less than 1% of what they were giving to saltwater areas while not bothering to collect a user fee they were authorized to collect. And at the same time the state was pushing for user fees at lake hopatcong and working on taking ownership and control of lhc equipment and not funding the line item in the dep budget for the lhc, that is supposed to let them manage the harvesting and other projects for the lake. And this year, even $150k was too much while those other saltwater grants are still out there and without the saltwater fishing user fee, while freshwater still pays freshwater boating license fees (non-tidal) and freshwater fishing fees, etc.... Of course, pointing out things like this might be why my nomination by Governor Christie to serve on the LHC as a state rep still languishes for final approval in the Senate....


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