Governor Cuomo released his SFY 2018-19 Executive Budget proposal on Tuesday, January 16th. The budget totaled $168.1 billion, a 9.7 percent increase over last year’s enacted State budget, and would close an estimated $4.5 billion deficit in the upcoming fiscal year by trimming projected school aid, reducing spending on capital projects, and allocating $383 million from one-time financial settlements. In addition to these cost-saving proposals, the Executive Budget also contains a number of “revenue raisers” for the state, including proposals that would close the carried interest loophole, create an internet fairness conformity tax, defer large corporate tax cuts, and establish a surcharge on opioid prescriptions, with a proposal to institute an employer payroll tax expected to follow in the coming weeks.
Most importantly to Audubon New York, the Governor’s budget proposal includes several of Audubon’s policy and fiscal priorities, including $300 million for the Environmental Protection Fund and legislation that would establish the Empire Forests for the Future Initiative. We will work with the Cuomo Administration, the Legislature, our partners, and shoulder-to-shoulder with you, to ensure these critical proposals, which protect New York State’s environment, are enacted into law.
Below are the highlights of Governor Cuomo’s key environmental proposals from the Executive Budget:
- $300 Million Investment in the Environmental Protection Fund – This funding, consistent with last year’s appropriation level, protects clean water, open space, working lands, forests, parks, and waterfronts.
- Empire Forest for the Future Initiative – This initiative will support private forest landowners, reduce the conversion of forests to non-forest uses, and encourage sustainable forest management on privately owned lands - which account for 75% of the State’s total forested property. Proposals include modification to forest tax law, grants to help landowners implement best forest management practices, and grants to support local governments and non-profits acquire and manage community forests.
- Investments in New York’s Outdoor Economy – This funding will improve and restore the State’s outdoor recreation infrastructure and establish new ways to experience New York’s cultural, historic, and natural resources.
- New York Parks 2020 – This proposal would invest $90 million in capital funding that will build off the success of Parks 2020, targeting projects at State Parks and historic facilities, where public dollars will leverage private funding, operations, and partnerships.
- New York Works – This proposal provides $40 million to address capital needs that improve access to State lands, rehabilitate campgrounds, and upgrade its recreation facilities as part of the Adventure NY program.
- Streamline the Brownfield Opportunity Areas Program – This initiative provides grants and support to help municipalities and community organizations implement hazardous waste site revitalization strategies. This proposal would streamline grant funding process in an effort to create efficiencies and expand eligibility for tax credits.
- Central Pine Barrens Core Preservation Area – This proposal amends the boundaries of the Central Pine Barrens Core Preservation Area on Long Island to include two areas adjacent to the current preserve in Shoreham and Brookhaven.
- Continued Commitment to Clean Water Infrastructure – The proposed budget continues the historic $2.5 billion in funding for clean water infrastructure that was originally enacted in 2015 and increased in subsequent budgets. This funding provides municipalities with the means to upgrade and improve municipal drinking water and wastewater systems, protect source waters, and increases the state Superfund to expedite the cleanup of sites that may impact drinking water sources.
Audubon New York commends Governor Cuomo for his continued commitment and leadership in protecting New York’s environment. We look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature to ensure New York continues to lead the nation in protecting and restoring New York’s environment.
Audubon New York is the state’s leading voice for the conservation and protection of natural resources for birds. Integrating science, conservation, policy and education, Audubon’s mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitat for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity. With 50,000 members and 27 affiliated chapters state-wide, Audubon New York oversees seven sanctuaries and centers, from Long Island to western New York, and protects priority habitats, including more than 130 Important Bird Areas identified as critical for the conservation of birds.