The 2018 Legislative Session is off to a strong start. Included in Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Book are a number of items in NYLCV’s Statewide Policy Agenda for this year, which we emailed to you on Tuesday. While many of these proposals can be implemented through executive action, others will require cooperation from the legislature and that is where the rubber meets the road. We look forward to a collaborative and productive legislative and budget process in the coming months.
In the coming weeks we also look forward to hearing the Governor’s proposal to reduce single-use bag waste. We have long maintained that any plan to deal with single-use bags must include a fee-component. In addition, we look forward to the recommendations of the Fix NYC panel to provide short- and long-term funding for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority through a congestion pricing plan that discourages traffic. In November, NYLCV sent a letter with five recommendations that we consider essential components of a successful plan. We will continue to urge the Governor and the Legislature to consider these points, including a fee on all vehicles entering the central business district.
There is much we know already, however, and I wanted to give you a quick rundown of what we are paying attention to and most excited about:
Clean Energy: Not only is Governor Cuomo making good on his 2017 promise of a 30 percent cap reduction in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative but he will also seek to reduce emissions from peaking units. Reducing these emissions will help to curb greenhouse gas emissions and will save lives by cutting the amount of harmful particulate matter and other pollutants released into the air. The investment of $200 million from the NY Green Bank for energy storage is a major step toward attaining the State’s recently adopted 1,500 MW energy storage goal, a key piece to integrate renewables into our energy mix. We also look forward to ambitious new energy efficiency targets that will be established by Earth Day, financing zero cost solar for 10,000 low income New Yorkers, and the solicitation of proposals for offshore wind power – all are welcome moves to help clean our energy mix. We are also optimistic that the U.S. Climate Alliance will play a valuable role in the exchange of ideas and best practices to help each participating state overcome challenges to meeting its Paris Agreement commitment.
Resilience: The Governor has pledged to fulfill a priority of ours by releasing resiliency guidelines and requiring projects that receive State funding to consider these guidelines. In addition, the Department of Environmental Conservation will update flood maps and coastal risk areas, and the State will offer financial support for state-of-the-art local resiliency plans.
Sustainable Transportation: We are preparing a campaign to push school districts to switch to zero emissions school buses, so Governor Cuomo’s pledge to invest nearly $130M in Volkswagon settlement funds in clean transportation, with a particular focus on school buses in urban areas, was a welcome surprise yesterday. In addition, “Charge 2.0” will make available 10,000 public charging stations by 2021 and establish Clean Fuel Corridors along state highways, with a goal of easy zero emissions vehicle travel anywhere on New York State highways by 2020.
Food and Farms: Last week we found out the Governor will propose doubling the successful Farm to School Program‘s funding to $1.5 million. We have long called for the expansion of this important initiative, which helps local farmers as well as school districts looking to increase local foods on school menus, improves student health, and increases agriculture education. The Governor would also increase the school meal reimbursement rate from 5.9 cents to 25 cents for any district that purchases at least 30% of its ingredients from New York State farms.
Clean Water and Public Health: There is a growing concentration of chemicals and pollution causing harm to vulnerable populations. Governor Cuomo will propose legislation to require personal care product manufacturers to disclose ingredients and identify which ingredients have been identified by government agencies as potential hazards to human health, another longtime priority of ours. In addition, the Department of Health and the Department of Homes and Community Renewal will develop a system to ensure all housing authorities and private landlords statewide make sure our children are safe from lead. Governor Cuomo has also released proposals to address algal blooms in our lakes and clean up the Grumman Plume in Bethpage.
Parks and Open Spaces: Governor Cuomo pledged to create a new 407-acre State park in Central Brooklyn at the site of the former Pennsylvania and Fountain Ave landfills. This would be the largest State Park in New York City and bring much needed open space to a community that has long been clamoring for it. In addition, the Governor will work to see that Hudson River Park is finally completed. This is a huge win for communities along the waterfront from Battery Park City to 59th Street — and for all New Yorkers — who will be able to enjoy the benefits of these world class open spaces and public amenities.
These announcements are a fantastic start to “governing season.” If you think we’re going to stop and celebrate, however, you would be very wrong. With tensions high in Albany and Washington, turning bright and bold ideas into reality will again be a serious challenge this year. The hard part of enacting a budget and making laws starts now and we’ll need you with us as we fight day and night. We hope you’ll stay informed, sign our petitions to your legislators, call their offices, and participate in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.