Governor Andrew Cuomo released his 2018-19 budget proposal on Tuesday. Following is Protect the Adirondacks’ news release on what’s in it for the North Country.
Governor Cuomo released his new budget for 2018-19 on January 16th. The Legislature will now hold budget hearings and react with their own spending priorities. Chronic issues around public education and health care spending will likely dominate deliberations around adoption of a new budget, but this year will see politics and political posturing move to the center stage as Governor Cuomo is up for re-election this year, and probably faces a primary in September, and the State Senate remains precariously controlled by Republicans who have a 1-seat advantage pending two special elections in the Bronx and Westchester County.
For the Adirondacks, state spending largely has held steady around key state investments in the region. The new Environmental Protection Fund will be funded at $300 million for the second year in a row, the highest level for this fund in its 25-year history. Highlights include: $8 million for environmental justice; $16 million for Waterfront Revitalization, including $1,000,000 for Adirondack infrastructure and environmental improvements for the towns of Long Lake, North Hudson, Minerva, Indian Lake and Newcomb; $20 million for State Parks Stewardship, including $300,000 for the Newcomb and PSC VICs and $700,000 for the Lake George Park Commission infrastructure to help with boat monitoring and invasive species control; $34 million for Forest Preserve stewardship, $30 million for land acquisition, $20 million for farmlands protection, $18.6 million for Great Lakes and $13.3 million for invasive species, $12 million for climate smart projects.
“The Governor’s budget seeks to sustain key investments made in environmental protection and economic development in the Adirondack Park. These two goals have always gone hand-in-hand in the Adirondacks and its good to see a broad range of state spending to help sustain critical institutions and programs,” said Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks.
The EPF includes $300,000 to Essex County for the Essex County Landfill deal, which appears will never end.
Adirondack Park Agency and Department of Environmental Conservation spending held steady as will spending on the Regional Economic Development Councils.
Other environmental spending includes new installments for the $2.5 billion clean water infrastructure fund and $65 million for upstate lakes to confront algal blooms.
State capital programs include $20 million upgrades for Gore, Whiteface, and Mt. Van Hoevenberg facilities, and additional millions for an unspecified ORDA bailout for “payment of liabilities incurred prior to April 1, 2018.”
The budget also includes a new program to revise the property tax exemption for the Preferential Forest Tax Law Programs 480 and 480a with a new Empire Forests for the Future Initiative. This new program is designed to encourage sustainable forestry practices, provide assistance to municipalities disproportionately impacted by the exemptions, and create a procurement preference for New York wood products. The budget says “This legislation will help alleviate development pressures on the State’s 14 million acres of privately owned forest lands, conserve open space, support sustainable forest-based industries, encourage renewable energy development, and reduce unfunded mandates on local governments.”
The Governor also announced a second year of funding for the Empire State Trail, a plan calling for a $200 million investment towards what could be the largest multi-use state trail network in the nation. “North Country leaders would be smart to try and get the Saratoga Springs to Newcomb rail line conversion included in this program,” said Peter Bauer.