State Sen. Anthony R. Bucco (R-Morris) said on Thursday that the state legislature had stripped the funding he had designated for the Lake Hopatcong Commission completely from the state budget.
"They took out every last penny [of the $600,000]," Bucco said. "We put the resolution for that funding in, and when the Democrats wrote the budget, they removed it all."
Bucco said he was particularly annoyed because he had received some indications that the $600,000—which would go toward weed harvesting and other water-quality efforts by the Lake Hopatcong Commission—would remain through the negotiations. "Then they just pulled it all," he said.
The Lake Hopatcong Commission put the last of its available money toward the July weed harvesting effort at its June 20 meeting, with the hope that the state would eventually get them the funding to continue operations beyond the summer.
At this point, it is unclear how long the commission can continue to function, but commission chairman and Jefferson mayor Russ Felter estimated that it would be no more than a few months. “If we don’t do it, we’re going to be out of business in a couple of months anyway,” Felter said at the meeting. “At least this helps the lake. We’ve got to do something.”
Commissioner Dan McCarthy of Hopatcong likened the situation to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
(Felter was unavailable for comment on Thursday. Check back for updates as the story progresses.)
Some hope does remain. Bucco said that Gov. Chris Christie inserted language into the budget bill that stipulated that if the state legislature could pass a bill that would give the commission a permanent source of funding, the group could still receive money in this fiscal year's budget. "I'm begging the senate president [Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester] to allow this bill," Bucco said, adding that the same stipulation had been added the in the past without success.
Bucco said he was disappointed, but would continue to work toward keeping the commission going. "The lake is important," he said, "and we haven't given up on it yet."