For the first time since 2010, New York began its fiscal year with a budget extender from the previous year to avoid a government shutdown until a final budget deal is reached. After many starts and stops, we finally have a completed budget for the FY 2017-2018 fiscal year as of late Sunday night.
The good news is, for the second consecutive year, Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature have agreed on a budget that includes historic funding levels for the environment, with major victories for clean water, public health, land conservation. These allocations and programs will touch New Yorkers in all corners of the state, ensuring the health of our environment now and for future generations.
New York has continually demonstrated national leadership on climate and the environment, serving as a stark contrast to what is going on in Washington. As they go low, New York is going higher than ever — both figuratively and literally. The Governor’s strong rhetoric on climate and protecting our citizens from environmental harm is one thing, but this budget shows we have the mettle fill in, and then some, in areas where our federal government has proposed to leave a void. We hope to continue to see this resolve continue through the rest of session and into next year’s budget, as the burden on our state and local leaders to step up will only increase.
Here’s a run down of the our priorities that made it across the finish line and what is still outstanding:
Issues that made the budget
1. The Environmental Protection Fund will remain at $300 million for the second year in a row, the highest it has ever been. (NYLCV Priority)
2. $2.5 billion will be available for clean water infrastructure, $500 million more than the $2 billion originally proposed in the Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017 (NYLCV Priority). Keeping our clean water infrastructure in acceptable condition costs about $800 million per year, so this funding will leverage additional support to other critical water projects, such as:
a. $200 million to NYC for water quality improvement
b. $130 million for the hazardous waste remedial fund
c. $110 million for land acquisition, to prevent contamination at its source
d. $100 million for local, municipal-level, water quality improvement programs
e. $75 million for septic tank & cesspool replacements or improvements
f. $50 million for runoff infrastructure built into cities, like bioswales, rain gardens, and permeable surfaces. These systems absorb and use runoff, rather than immediately funneling it into drains.
g. $20 million for replacing water service lines containing lead
3. Mandatory testing of public water systems will expand to include those serving fewer than 10,000 people (NYLCV Priority)
a. 2.5 million New Yorkers get their drinking water from systems serving fewer than 10,000 people.
b. Mandatory testing for PFOA, a contaminant found at Hoosick Falls and Newburgh.
c. Mandatory testing for 1, 4-dioxane, a contaminant found around Long Island
d. A Drinking Water Quality Council will evaluate and recommend limits to new contaminants, and keep the public informed on the state of water quality tests.
4. The Empire State Trail was fully funded at $200 million. When Completed, the 750-mile trail will run from Battery Park to Canada and Albany to Buffalo, along the Erie Canal.
5. The farm to food bank tax credit was included in this year’s budget. Farmers will be able to claim 25% of the fair market value of any food they donate to a food pantry, subject to a $5,000 per tax filer cap each year.
Issues that did not make it
1. We fought for the Food Recovery and Recycling Act, which would have required large generators of food waste like colleges or supermarkets to donate edible food and recycle the rest, but time ran out. We intend to revisit this issue later in session.
2. A 25 cent increase in reimbursement for school meals made from locally grown food.
3. A lower threshold for participation in the 480-a forest management tax credit.
This budget would not have made the environmental progress it did had it not been for citizens’ engagement. Your contact with representatives, dialogue on social media, and generous support of our organization are what push the environmental agenda forward. We are grateful to you all for helping us do what we do.