In his budget for the next fiscal year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing an increase of $10 million for the Environmental Protection Fund, the state’s major source of funding for farmland protection, open space conservation, clean water, parks, and many other environmental programs.
The increase, to $172 million, would continue reversing steep cuts made during the economic crisis. The EPF once stood at $255 million and had been scheduled to increase to $300 million before the recession.
Friends of New York’s Environment, a coalition of more than 200 environmental, health, agricultural, parks, recreational, and urban groups, strongly supports the increase proposed by the governor, but continues to advocate for the restoration of funding to pre-recession levels and eventual full funding of $300 million.
In addition, the coalition is working with the legislature to make sure that a boost to the EPF does not come at the expense of other state environmental programs. The EPF has traditionally been funded by the Real Estate Transfer Tax-which has rebounded and is projected to generate $1 billion annually for the next four years-as well as other, smaller revenue sources. Rather than relying on these sources to increase the EPF, the Governor has proposed using revenue from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Program.
Additional funding for EPF would address environmental issues critical to the state’s quality of life and economy, such as clean water, storm resiliency, and jobs in forestry, agriculture, recycling, and tourism. Programs funded by the EPF generate $40 billion for the state economy and support hundreds of thousands of jobs, delivering a $7 return for every $1 invested, according to a study by The Trust for Public Land.
“In a year when New York State has a significant budget surplus, and investments are being made in many sectors, we must not miss the opportunity to continue to make necessary investments in the environment,” said Tom Gilbert, Senior Conservation Finance Director, The Trust for Public Land.
The Trust for Public Land Action Fund sponsors the media and grassroots advocacy campaign of Friends of New York’s Environment. For more information go to http://keepprotectingny.com/