For 20 years, New York’s environmental agencies have used the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) to protect water, air, parklands, and working farms, all while creating high quality jobs. For every $1 the EPF invests in our communities, $7 is returned to the state in economic benefits, supporting more than 350,000 jobs, including outdoor tourism, agriculture, and construction.
In January, Governor Cuomo proposed a $4 million increase in the EPF, to $157 million. This was due, in part, to last year’s improved Bottle Bill enforcement provisions, which invested the increased revenues in the EPF.
That was a good start, but we need the Legislature to go even further. Now that the economy is improving, the main source of revenue for the EPF, the Real Estate Transfer Tax, is projected to increase—by a lot – up to $1 billion a year by 2018. As that revenue recovers, so too should the EPF. Once upon a time, it was funded at $255 million; increasing the fund to $200 million now is a needed step towards the EPF making a full recovery.
The good news is that both the Assembly and the Senate have proposed increases beyond the Governor’s proposal in their one-house budgets. Both the Assembly and Senate proposals acknowledge that the EPF appropriation should grow this year, when New York’s budget will have its first surplus since the economic downturn. While the two proposals are different, the Legislature’s efforts recognize the Fund’s importance to protecting our clean water, community health, and jobs.
Now discussions are underway between the Legislature and the Governor. A final agreement will need to be made before the March 31st deadline marking the end of the State Fiscal Year. We urge the Legislature and the Governor to work together to further increase the EPF appropriation in the final budget.
We are asking organizations and citizens to support the effort to provide healthier air and water in New York. You can help by sending letters to the Governor, Assembly and Senate that thank everyone for their work to increase the EPF and urge them to come to a final agreement to increase the Fund in this year’s budget. For more information on the campaign, visit http://keepprotectingny.com.
Posted by Jessica Ottney Mahar, Director of Government Relations, The Nature Conservancy in New York. Jessica can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @jessicaottney.
Cover Photo: The Hudson River by newyorkfishing.us