It was the final week of budget negotiations in New York State, and tensions were high. The hotly anticipated new State Budget had yet to be released. When the April 1st deadline came and went, an extender legislation allowed the government to keep running as elected officials continued to negotiate. But the final budget agreement was worth the wait!
2017 has proven to be a banner year for New York’s environment and communities. Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature have made a historic commitment to rebuild our drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. This year’s State Budget includes $2.5 billion for water projects in every corner of our state.
Securing this victory didn’t come easily. Our policy team worked with elected officials and environmental, labor, and business groups. The Nature Conservancy helped shape this funding to include cost-effective and nature-based conservation solutions that will safeguard New York’s clean water for the communities that depend on it.
In addition to funding new wastewater and drinking water infrastructure, the $2.5 billion of funding for clean water includes $110 million to protect our drinking water sources, $50 million to build green infrastructure, and $75 million to update outdated septic and cesspool systems, which are causing severe water quality issues and threatening local economies. This multi-billion-dollar investment in our water is a tremendous victory for New Yorkers and will go a long way in addressing the widespread need to rebuild our water infrastructure across the state.
But that’s not all. This year’s budget also includes a second year of record funding for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). A $300 million EPF is more great news for communities across New York. The EPF provides funding for programs that conserve land and water, protect our oceans, Great Lakes, and Hudson River Estuary; support parks, community gardens, waterfronts, and zoos; reduce pollution and clean up polluted sites; and address invasive species and climate change.
This year’s budget also provides important funding–$70 million for New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and $122 million for New York’s State Parks–to enhance our parks and public recreation opportunities. Governor Cuomo’s Parks 2020 Plan helps to ensure our state parks are safe and accessible to all. And the Adventure New York Program will improve facilities like campsites so that people can get out and enjoy the best of what New York has to offer! From Niagara Falls to Bear Mountain to the Adirondacks to Riverbank State Park, our parks and state lands provide New Yorkers and visitors from around the world beautiful places to relax, swim, bike, hike, and so much more.
This year’s state budget is an outstanding victory for New Yorkers today and for future New Yorkers. We are grateful for the strong leadership of Governor Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Heastie, Senate Majority Leader Flanagan, Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Englebright, Senate Environmental Conservation Committee Chair O’Mara, Rural Resources Commission Chair Senator Helming, and Senate Health Committee Chair Hannon who all recognize the importance of clean water and environmental conservation for community prosperity. They, along with many other legislators who strongly supported funding for clean water and conservation, made this historic budget victory possible.