The Adirondack Council has issued a statement to the press applauding Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal for its focus on many of the state’s environmental priorities and detailing budget items related to the Adirondack Park:
- The Environmental Protection Fund receives $300 million in the Governor’s plan, same as the current budget.
- He proposes no staffing raid (no staff salaries covered by EPF funding). That’s important because this is a capital account. Salaries would drain it.
To deal with High Peaks, visitors and overuse issues:
- $1.265 million increase for State Land Stewardship
- Within the State Land Stewardship account: $800k for Essex County Overuse (down $400,000 from last year)
- Visitor Interpretive Centers still funded at $120,000 (Newcomb, SUNY-ESF) and $180,000 (Paul Smiths College)
- $250k for Adirondack Diversity Initiative (same as current budget). This is the third year of funding for the new program.
- $13.3 for programs to control invasive species (same as current budget)
- The major drop in capital funding expressed in the Governor’s budget is the Bond Act not being in the budget this year. For some reason, the chart double counts the $3 billion, so you get -$5.9B once you add increases in other areas.
- There is another $500 million for clean water funding that will help communities pay for multi-million-dollar water and sewer systems and upgrades that would otherwise fall on the backs of local taxpayers.
Open Space/Forest Preserve:
- $30m for Open space protection (down $1 million from current budget)
- Permanent staffing is held flat for rangers, conservation officers, and other jobs that would handle visitor surges, education, facility upgrades and new trails. There is an increase in 16 Full timers, spread across the DEC’s administration and clean air division. This is likely to pay for Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act implementation.
- In the spring of 2020, the Adirondack Council called upon the Governor and State to prioritize regional economic development investments in health care and first responder infrastructure. The park is dealing with a huge increase in visitors and new residents, yet has not seen a commensurate increase in state investments in health care facilities and capacity.
The Council believes Cuomo should renew the 2020 proposal for an Environmental Bond Act and urged the Governor to avoid being timid in his efforts to stimulate economic recovery in the state. The Council pointed to environmental programs as a way to increase employment while making the state a better place to live and work.