2016 is off to a roaring start. Governor Cuomo previewed a number of his big announcements in his State of the State Address. He proposed funding the Environmental Protection Fund at $300 million, $125 million for water infrastructure, waiving tolls on the Thruway for agricultural vehicles and a slew of sustainable infrastructure projects including a new Penn Station and a third track for the Long Island Rail Road.
None of these are for sure until we see them included in the final budget. We still have work to do to ensure they get there. But it’s a game-changer to be fighting to protect these allocations rather than starting from zero, or even worse, pushing back against significant cuts.
Nevertheless, there are still many big items on our to-do list for this year and that’s why we’re releasing our New York State Policy Agenda for 2016 today. Here are a few of our top budget priorities from our agenda, which we will be pushing for in the next few months:
- Increase funding for municipal parks and waterfrontrevitalization to $48 million, and dedicate half of that to urban and other underserved communities.
- Continue the successful expansion of farmers markets throughout the state through the FreshConnect Program and double the amount of food vouchers available to veterans and low-income New Yorkers at those markets.
- Protect kids from toxic chemicals through the Child Safe Products Act.
- Make state-owned farmland available to young farmers.
- Create a sustainable funding stream for the MTA’s Capital Plan and spend $100M on new buses and other equipment for transit systems upstate.
We developed our agenda working closely with leading environmental, public health, conservation, energy, environmental justice, and transportation organizations. Together, we identified our most pressing priorities on climate change, public health, and natural resources in New York State.
We recognize that these challenges will not be easy to solve. Our leaders will need to be thoughtful, work across the aisle and make tough compromises. But we fully expect them to do whatever it takes to create a greener, healthier and more prosperous New York.