Inside the Sausage Maker: Budget Update
We’re about four days from passage of the SFY2017–18 New York State Budget.
If you haven’t heard many details, well, don’t let it bruise your ego. State leaders craft the budget (estimated at $162 billion this year) typically behind closed doors.
Still, it is probably the greatest responsibility for governors and state legislators, as thousands of programs, initiatives, and projects hang in the balance. No effort has a more direct impact on New Yorkers day-to-day lives than the budget. As we enter the final days of negotiations, here’s an update on key environmental developments.
$800 million in grant funding is needed annually to help communities keep our drinking and wastewater infrastructure safe and running. On the table are two key proposals: 1) investments, and 2) following a series of community crises, a package of initiatives that would require water testing for a wider range of contaminants, and could promote stronger chemical regulation.
The Senate has proposed a much larger investment than either the Governor or Assembly ($2 billion direct investment + $5 billion bond act subject to voter approval). The Assembly, however, has proposed far more stringent and responsible ways that funding should be allocated.
They also have built on the Governor’s proposals for testing of private residential wells and testing for emerging contaminants in public water systems, while also providing a pathway for possible regulation of these chemicals. Our advocacy remains focused on combining the best of all proposals (you can act by clicking here!) to ensure the state fulfills the $800 million annual funding gap for water infrastructure, as well as to protect our drinking water broadly.
The Environmental Protection Fund appears on its way to securing another $300 million investment in this year’s budget. The Governor and both houses of the Legislature are negotiating over key programs within the EPF, such as those for climate communities, etc. And we are pleased that at least $2 million (the Assembly has called for $4 million, but we are not sure what will be in the final deal) appears to be set for the Centers for Children’s Environmental Health, life-saving programs that help to connect-the-dots between environmental toxins and the impacts on youth.
“Will Governor Cuomo step up and begin to act on climate, or will he side with the Senate to bump these issues to the background?”
Climate & Community Protection Act
Nationally, it’s shaping up to be a tough time for breathers. A few weeks ago, at automakers’ request, the Trump Administration began the dismantling of vehicle emission standards that will harm our air, climate, and consumers who will end up paying more for fossil fuels.
This week, they are expected to take the next step by dismantling the Clean Power Plan, which means more pollution from states like Kentucky coming to New York, as well as the likely reneging on the Paris Climate Agreement. The state Assembly has shown what real climate leadership looks like, placing the groundbreaking Climate & Community Protection Act on the negotiating table. With a recalcitrant Senate led by people who deny climate science, the big question is: “will Governor Cuomo step up and begin to act on climate, or will he side with the Senate to bump these issues to the background?”
Diesel Emissions & Childhood Asthma
Ten years ago, the State enacted the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act of 2006 (DERA). The law was set to take effect in 2010. Unfortunately, each year since the Senate has proposed a delay which the Governor and Assembly ultimately signed off on. This year, the Senate once again is fighting for a delay, an effort which, much to our surprise, was also included in the budget resolution from the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC).
However, with an unexpected $117 million windfall coming to New York due to Volkswagen cheating on its emission standards (the lion’s share of the money must be dedicated for diesel emissions), the State has no more excuses for any more delays. We released a new report, Sitting Idly By, which has shaken things up in the Capitol, and are working with the IDC members and other lawmakers to finally enact a law that children and families have been waiting a decade for. Call IDC leader Jeff Klein’s office today at 718–822–2049. Tell him you support the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act of 2006, are disappointed with their vote to delay and endanger our children, and want to see DERA fully enacted in this year’s budget.
“If you haven’t heard many details, well, don’t let it bruise your ego. State leaders craft the budget (estimated at $162 billion this year) typically behind closed doors.”
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is the state’s premier carbon abatement program. Yet for the third year in a row, Governor Cuomo and the state Senate have both proposed deep raids to the program. However, the Assembly has proposed a strong plan to invest RGGI funds into solar energy for environmental justice communities who have long suffered from the effects of pollution.
The Governor has proposed redirecting $23 million from RGGI to fund a series of tax breaks which have been on the books for several years, some dating back to the Pataki-era. The Senate again wants to gut the program, raiding more than $100 million for General Fund relief and other purposes. The Assembly though is pushing back against both of these bad proposals by advocating the $23 million be dedicated for community solar projects in low-income and disadvantaged communities, helping families and businesses make the transition to clean, renewable solar. We’ve organized dozens of groups in support of the Assembly’s proposal and against the Governor and Senate’s proposed raids. See our letter here!
While it was a campaign we led in last year’s budget, we’re pleased to report that New York’s very first electric vehicle purchase rebate program is now in effect! Consumers in the market for a new car are now eligible for an up-to $2,000 rebate! This will prove an especially important program as President Trump dismantles federal vehicle emission standards. Learn more about this important victory on NYSERDA’s website!
For Live Developments
We will include information about final budget results in our communications with members; if you do not already receive our emails, text JoinEANY to 52886 today!