We’re all familiar with the yellow school buses of our childhood: the rattling sounds of metal, the squeals of our peers, leather seats that had seen better days. Their presence was an integral part to so many childhoods – so what’s being changed?
Transportation is a leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in New York, accounting for a third of total overall emissions. Not only are these emissions harming the planet, but research has shown that they are also harming New York’s children, leading to higher levels of asthma.
Because of these reasons, states across the country are considering implementing electric school bus programs, which have been shown to be an effective tool for reducing emissions, with a 2018 report from the Environment America Research and Policy Center finding that a nationwide push towards electric buses could eliminate 5.3 million tons of pollutants on a national scale each year. The zero-emissions school bus program, therefore, is one step in the state’s push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve net-zero emissions overall.
What’s being debated in the budget?
In January, Governor Kathy Hochul established support for the electric bus movement, representing one of the first statewide commitments to green transportation in the country.
In her State of the State address, Hochul proposed a commitment to achieving 100% electric school buses in New York State by 2035, with all new school bus purchases required to be fully electric starting in 2027. Governor Hochul’s Executive Budget advanced legislation to codify this goal and make a number of technical changes to how State education aid for school districts is structured in order to help cover costs associated with new electric buses. Many of these changes were first suggested in legislation sponsored by Senator Tim Kennedy and Assemblymember Pat Fahy, who have been strong legislative leaders on electric buses.
Both houses of the legislature included a version of Governor Hochul’s electric school bus proposal in their one house budgets, meaning that all parties agree that our school bus fleet should be 100% electric by 2035. The Senate’s version of the legislation strengthened the Governor’s proposal by requiring NYSERDA to provide technical assistance to school districts as they navigate the transition to 100% electric buses and requiring the State to develop a roadmap to identify barriers to the 100% by 2035 goal so that they may be addressed early. The Senate also proposed $1 billion for zero-emission transportation, including school buses, as part of an expanded Environmental Bond Act.
With just one week of budget negotiations left, NYLCV commends the Governor, the State Senate, and the State Assembly for their commitment to electric school buses. Now it is time for them to ensure the school bus plan in the final budget agreement includes the amendments proposed by the Senate and dedicated funding for school districts.