Things to know before casting your ballot
By Gwendolyn Craig
On the back of ballots this Nov. 8, the state asks for voters’ approval to borrow up to $4.2 billion for the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022. If authorized, the funding would support climate change mitigation, flood reduction and restoration projects, open space land conservation and water-quality improvement projects. At least 35% of the total borrowing must support initiatives in disadvantaged communities.
Below are answers to some questions voters may have before heading to the polls to vote on this measure.
The Adirondack Park could see funding for projects in the bond act’s broad categories. Of the $4.2 billion, at least $1.1 billion is proposed for restoration and flood risk reduction; $650 million for open space and recreation; $1.5 billion for climate change mitigation; and $650 million for water quality and water infrastructure. About $300 million is undesignated.
The measure, proposed under Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul, has the support of many lawmakers in her party and some Republicans. Many Adirondack Park groups and environmental organizations are in support. The Business Council of New York State and the New York State Association of Counties also support the initiative for its promise of financial assistance to local governments to harden infrastructure and combat climate change.The bond act also promises to support 84,000 jobs, according to a study supported by a coalition of environmental organizations called New Yorkers for Clean Water and Jobs.
The state Conservative Party has come out against it. It does not believe taxpayers should take on more state debt and highlighted how previous bond acts remain unspent.
The last time the state approved such environmental borrowing was under Republican Gov. George Pataki during a presidential election year in 1996. The $1.75 billion Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act has nearly been spent, though records show as of early 2022 about $82 million remained and $100 million is authorized for borrowing.
The Explorer spent over six months reviewing records and interviewing members of the Pataki administration, environmental leaders and state agencies to see how the majority of the last environmental bond act was spent. It found no audit was ever done. A full accounting was never made available. The state Department of Environmental Conservation, in charge of the bulk of the funding, had issued a handful of annual reports accounting expenditures and allocations. The last public report to state legislators was just over two decades ago in March 2001 when $1.3 billion had been appropriated, but $647 million had actually been spent.
The Adirondacks received a fair amount of attention under the 1996 bond act. Notable projects included several major land acquisition and conservation easement projects, the closure of all landfills within the park and infrastructure upgrades to Olympic Regional Development Authority facilities.