Legislative Spending Plans Bode Well for New York State Parks and EPF: Plans Build on Strong Environmental Budget advanced by Governor Cuomo
ALBANY, NY — March 13, 2012 — The New York State Legislature responded to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2012-13 executive budget this week with spending plans that convey a commitment to New York’s state parks and historic sites and the long-term stability of the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF).
“The budget proposals advanced by Governor Cuomo and the Legislature demonstrate a renewed commitment to parks and the environment,” said Erik Kulleseid of the Open Space Institute’s Alliance for New York State Parks. “We congratulate our leaders for their active support of these important programs and are hopeful that final budget negotiations produce meaningful advancements in protecting New York’s natural, cultural, recreational resources.”
A First Step Toward the Return of State Parks Funding
Both the Senate and the Assembly affirmed the governor’s proposed $89 million to upgrade, restore and repair New York’s aging and run down state parks and historic sites. Considering that only two years ago scores of state parks were slated for closing, this is a significant turnaround.
The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation estimates an agency-wide capital backlog of more than $1 billion, of which $461 million is associated with basic health and safety projects and $595 million with deteriorated and worn out facilities.
The $89 million plan is an important first step toward restoring New York’s state parks. Ensuring that this funding is part of the final, negotiated budget remains a priority for OSI’s Alliance for New York State Parks.
An Enhanced EPF on the Horizon?
In addition, New York State’s beleaguered and strained Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) could be in for a big lift. Created in 1993, the EPF has been a mainstay of funding for state programs that protect our air, land and water. In his proposed budget, Gov. Cuomo maintained support for the EPF at $134 million.
While the governor’s support in executive budget is greatly appreciated, over the years the fund has been subject to fluctuations in available funding and is down from its maximum level of $255 million in 2008.
In an effort to establish a more consistent funding mechanism for the EPF, proposals were advanced by both the Senate and Assembly which would enhance the EPF by redirecting existing proceeds from New York's unclaimed bottle deposits. New York State collects approximately $115 million from unclaimed bottle deposits each year.
The good news is that although not identical in approach, each house of the Legislature is looking to supplement existing funds with revenue from unclaimed bottle deposits. The Open Space Institute remains hopeful that the governor and legislature can reach a compromise to ensure the long-term strength and effectiveness of the EPF.