A last-ditch effort to place an open-space referendum on the November ballot may have come up a few votes short this summer, but Sen. Diane Allen’s support for the measure wasn’t forgotten by conservationists, who endorsed her re-election this week.
Allen, R-7th of Edgewater Park, was one of only two Republicans who voted July 29 in favor of a resolution to ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment dedicating $200 million from the state’s annual sales tax revenue to programs preserving open space, farmland and historic sites.
Her willingness to buck her party during a key environmental vote was cited by the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, which selected Allen as one of the legislative candidates it would support this fall.
“It’s clear not only from her voting record but from our conversations with her that she’s very committed to environmental protection,” said Ed Potosnak, the league’s executive director. “We’re looking for more champions like Sen. Allen who are willing to put the environment ahead of politics.”
Allen has served in the Legislature since 1996, making her one of Burlington County’s longest-serving state lawmakers. She is being challenged by Democrat Gary Catrambone, a small-business owner and marketing executive who has spent the last seven years on Delran’s Township Council.
Mickey Quinn, spokesman for the Catrambone campaign, pointed to the Delran councilman’s endorsements from the Burlington County Central Labor Council, the Southern Jersey Building Trades Council and the New Jersey AFL-CIO whom he said “are literally building the New Jersey economy.”
In addition to the League of Conservation Voters, Allen has landed endorsements from the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, and the Interested Nurses Political Action Committee, the political arm of the New Jersey State Nurses Association.
Allen said she was proud of the diverse groups backing her re-election effort.
“I think I’m very fortunate to be involved in a number of committees like the education and health committees, where I’ve been able to work to support teachers and nurses in the district and around the state,” she said. “I’ve also done a lot of work with environmental groups, and I’m proud to be considered environmentally friendly.”
A recent scorecard by the league gave Allen a 73 percent approval rating based on key votes during the current legislative session.
Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman, R-16th of Branchburg, was the only Republican senator with a higher score. Like Allen, Bateman also voted in support of the open-space measure this summer, which fell two votes shy of the three-fifths majority needed to get the question on the ballot.
A similar resolution was approved by the Senate in June by a 36-2 vote with significant Republican support. However, that measure wound up stalling in the Assembly amid concerns that the diversion of sales tax revenue might eventually grow as the economy improves and cost the state $17 billion by the time it sunsets in 2045.
To address those concerns, the measure was rewritten with a $200 million cap and reintroduced, reducing the total cost to $6 billion.
Sources familiar with the situation have said many Republicans were still concerned that a constitutionally dedicated diversion of tax revenue might hamstring the administration and lawmakers in future budgets.
Supporters of the tax dedication have pledged to continue lobbying for it to be placed on the 2014 ballot.
The Governor’s Office and all 120 seats in the Legislature are up for grabs in November.
Democrats hold a 48-32 majority in the Assembly and a 24-16 advantage in the Senate.
In addition to Allen, the New Jersey Education Association endorsed the following local candidates: incumbent Democrats Herb Conaway and Troy Singleton in the 7th District Assembly race; incumbent Democratic Sen. James Beach and incumbent Democratic Assembly members Lou Greenwald and Pamela Lampitt in the 6th District races; Democratic challenger Raymond D. Dothard in the 12th District Senate race and incumbent Republicans Ronald Dancer and Robert Clifton in the 12th District Assembly races.
The NJEA did not endorse any candidates in the 8th District races, which pit incumbent Republican Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego against Medford Democrat Javier Vasquez, and incumbent Republican Chris Brown and newcomer Maria Rodriguez-Gregg of Evesham against Democrats Robert McGowan of Medford Lakes and Ava Markey of Evesham.
The nurses’ PAC also endorsed Conway, Singleton, Greenwald, Lampitt, Addiego, Brown and Rodriguez-Gregg.
Original Article at: http://www.phillyburbs.com/00redesign/news/local/open-space-vote-helps-allen-land-support-of-nj-conservationists/article_65ca92eb-90d6-5a42-a8a1-e4ce9c1d621f.html?mode=jqm