Historic is a word that we try not to use lightly, but it’s truly appropriate to describe how the environment fared in this budget. NYLCV applauds the Governor, the Senate, and the Assembly for addressing pressing needs across the spectrum of our priorities from fighting climate change, to conserving natural resources, to protecting public health. These new or significantly increased allocations for dozens of meaningful 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 these issues and we hope this momentum carries through to the end of session as we seek to advance strong environmental legislation.
Highlights of NYLCV priority programs that fared well in the budget include:
Environmental Protection Fund – The Governor inherited the EPF at $134 million. Last year it reached $177 million after a series of steady increases. So the jump to $300 million this year was a huge one. The Governor, Senate and Assembly have committed this money to a broad range of programs that support everything from municipal parks to land preservation to fighting climate change to public health:
- Municipal Parks and Waterfronts – Within this historic level of EPF funding, $20 million Municipal Parks Grant Program and a $16M Local Waterfront Revitalization Program. These programs rehabilitate playgrounds and ball fields, create new trails, and restore wetlands and waterfront access for recreation.
- Dedicated Funding for Low Income Communities – The final budget deal set aside dedicated EPF funds for capital projects in both urban and rural low-income areas. This was a major budget priority of NYLCV’s, and we are thrilled to see the final budget deal include it. Vibrant parks, playgrounds, and recreation areas make communities more livable and provide opportunities for children to play sports and exercise. A revitalized park or playground is essential in addressing a growing obesity problem in low-income communities. Previously, there was only funding for one in every five applications and this funding will help address that.
- Protecting Farmland – The budget includes $20 million for farmland conservation, which will help ensure these lands are safe from development and that are towns and cities have access to fresh, local produce.
- Fighting Climate Change – The final deal also includes an unprecedented $24 million to combat climate change. This will include smart growth grants, climate smart community capital projects, and more.
Clean Water – The budget includes $175 million this year for clean water infrastructure. New York State has an $800 million need for funding annually to begin to address the deteriorating infrastructure for drinking water and wastewater. This grant money will help leverage municipal and private investments to reach that number.
Promoting Zero Emission Vehicles – The budget includes a $2,000 consumer “point-of-purchase” rebate, which will motivate the greatest number of buyers and help New York reach its goal of 850,000 ZEVs on the road by 2025. Critically, the budget also includes $10M for charging stations. This was a top priority for NYLCV, as a robust and highly visible charging network will also motivate buyers.
Farms to Schools Program – This initiative also received a boost, helping to connect schools to local farmers and educate students about what they are eating and where it comes from.
Environmental Justice – The budget includes additional funding for environmental justice programs throughout the state, recognizing that we must correct the unequal environmental and climate impacts faced by certain communities around the state.