Proposed Executive Budget

The State Executive Budget for the next fiscal year would boost the Environmental Protection Fund to a permanent level of $150 million, up $25 million from this year. Of this, $55 million would go to land acquisition and open space protection, up from $31.5 million this year. The Executive Budget would also allocate $219.6 million from the $1.75 billion Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act to restore brownfields, clean up air and water pollution, provide funds to safe drinking water projects and support local solid waste programs. Of this, $87.6 million will go to clean water projects, including $50 million to help clean up Long Island Sound. The Governor would also allocate the remaining $3.5 million available from the bond act for land acquisition and open space projects. A Biodiversity Stewardship Program with funding proposed at $750.000 is also a possibility.

Two interesting programs are the DECÕs bird conservation program, in which funding is proposed at $250,000 and the Biodiversity Stewardship Program, with funding propose at $750,000. Also funded: $6 million for the Hudson River Estuary Management Plan and $1.3 million for assessing natural resource damage to the Hudson River and $500,000 for the development of the Henry Hudson River Institute.

The budget proposal also includes a financing plan to clean up state superfund sites, allocating $138 million for three cleanup programs with an equal contribution from private industry. Also included is $157 million to support 162 state parks and 35 historic sites, with funds from tax revenues and user fees. To encourage farmers to stay in business, the budget would include a series of property tax cuts, including tax credits for farmland restoration and extension of the school property tax relief program to include all farmers. From the Environmental Protection Fund, $12 million would go for farmland protection, to purchase development rights.

Altogether, the Executive Budget would spend $1.3 billion on all environmental programs. This includes $113.9 million to support State DEC programs, up $6.7 million from this year and $629.6 million for all capital projects, up $92.4 million from this year.

The proposed budget includes several fee increases Ñ hunting and fishing licenses, pesticide application fees, and fees for snowmobiles and boat registrations. David J. Miller, Executive Director of Audubon New York said, ÒThis budget is good news for the environment and builds on the GovernorÕs conservation legacy.Ó

Governor PatakiÕs State of the State message provided a major emphasis on environmental and conservation programs for 2001. He proposed establishing a tax credit for private landowners for donating property or easements to maintain scenic lands. And DEC Commissioner John Cahill has been moved to a new position as the senior policy advisor to the governor.

Printed in the March, April 2001 Newsletter

(reprinted from New York State Audubon Advocate Winter 2001)