An Analysis of Governor Cuomo's Pro-Adirondack Budget Proposals

Monday, January 26, 2015
By: Kevin Chlad - Adirondack Council's Legislative Director

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/images/Ausable Marsh Wildlife Management Area.jpgPro-Adirondack Park proposals that build on New York’s 123-year legacy of preserving this global treasure, its clean water, wilderness, wildlife, and rural communities, were among the priorities expressed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his team in his 2015 combined State of the State address and Executive Budget summary on January 21st.

These proposals have been transmitted to the state Senate and Assembly.  Negotiations now commence to build on, enhance and correct, where appropriate, the Governor’s proposals.  The goal is to finalize a budget before the fiscal year starts in April.

“We applaud the Governor for making a series of pro-Adirondack proposals that address priority issues identified by the Adirondack Council and our partners in the Park and around the world,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director, William C. Janeway.

In a January 20th blog that was first published in the Adirondack Almanack and also posted on the Council’s website, Janeway wrote about six things for which the Adirondack Council has advocated. Here is that list, and what the Governor proposed written in red.

  1. Clean Water Infrastructure Funding (Grants and Loans). Billions of dollars were proposed for infrastructure, but none are being dedicated specifically for clean-water grants, leaving the Legislature with an opportunity to designate clean-water funding.
  2. Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) Increases (including an increase in land protection, state land stewardship, invasive species, waterfront revitalization, and smart growth community grants.)  A $10-million increase for an EPF of $172 million was proposed, including more funds for land protection, stewardship, invasive species, and smart growth grants. This marks continued and critical progress towards restoring the EPF to $300 million. The budget proposes to use Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) carbon allowance auction proceeds to fund the increase, which will need to be addressed.  The Adirondack Council will ask the Legislature to expand upon this increase and find alternative funding sources.
  3. Regional Invasive Species Program & Funding.  The Governor proposed a Park-wide invasive species program and $1 million in additional funding.
  4. Adirondack Park Agency (APA) Reforms.  No APA reform proposed, but “effort(s) to make state government more responsive, efficient and effective” are included.
  5. Increases in Funding for APA and Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Forest Rangers and Environmental Scientists. DEC staffing is proposed to increase by 36 and both wildlife habitat staff and Forest Rangers are expected to be a part of this.  No staff restorations were proposed for the APA.
  6. Rail Road Safety/Oil Trains. The budget proposes to increase the oil spill response cap from $25 million to $40 million, increase the number of staff dedicated to oil spill response by eight full-time staff and increase the tax on oil that ends up or passes through our state to fund emergency preparedness efforts.

The Governor’s top priorities remain cutting taxes, fiscally responsible budgeting, generating jobs, and education reform. The Governor’s combined State of the State and proposed budget summary (548 page “2015 Opportunity Agenda") includes 164-specific numbered proposals and a rundown of the proposed budget goals.

For those who share the Adirondack Council’s concern for all that is special about the Adirondack Park, there are a number of specific proposed efforts important to clean water, wildlife, preserving wilderness, and enhancing economic sustainability and vibrancy for communities. These are in addition to the budgetary commitments made by the Governor. They include:

  • Focus on the Adirondack Tourism Economy (#41).
  • Improve New York’s Resiliency in the face of Climate Change (#50).
  • Launch a Climate Smart New York Program (#51).
  • Promote and Conserve New York’s Outdoor Resources (#53).
  • Establish an Excelsior Conservation Corps as a modern day version of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to include full-time residential environmental stewardship positions to address the environmental needs of the state (#54).
  • Promote Protected Landscapes and Thriving Communities in the Adirondacks. (#56)
  • Facilitate Infrastructure Repair and Improvements in the Adirondacks, “while honoring the legacy of Forever Wild” (#57).
  • Prevent the Spread of Invasive Species in the Adirondacks and develop an Adirondack invasive species strategy (#58).
  • Improve the Quality of Life for Adirondack Residents, including a focus on “hamlet-centric economic development” (#59).
  • Revitalize and Redevelop Communities in the Adirondacks and Catskills.  “Provide both economic activity and reduce development pressure upon the backcountry” and “support sustainable year-round communities” (#60).

The Adirondack Council applauds the Governor’s commitment to acquiring more Adirondack lands and water, to wilderness and to meeting Adirondack community utility, infrastructure and resiliency needs, while honoring and building on the state's legacy of preserving the Adirondack Forest Preserve as “Forever Wild.” 

The Adirondack Council, while not speaking for the Adirondack Common Ground Alliance (an organization we co-founded), is also pleased the Governor notes the positive contributions of “a nascent grassroots movement, where traditionally disparate factions in the Park are now working tirelessly in a spirit of common ground to bridge historic divides.”

Cumulatively, if strengthened by the Legislature, these proposals have the potential to be transformational and positive for the Adirondack Park, wilderness and communities.

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/kevin-chlad.jpgKevin Chlad joined the Adirondack Council staff in 2011.

Kevin provides support to the Council’s Albany-based Legislative and Communications team, assisting with outreach to government officials and the media to help spread the word about the Council’s advocacy for the Adirondack Park and specific policies that will impact the Adirondacks.

Kevin Chlad graduated in 2008 with a degree in Environmental Studies of the Adirondacks from SUNY Potsdam. Besides his previous time spent at the Adirondack Council as a Clarence Petty Intern in 2009, Kevin has held numerous other Adirondack occupations, including Ausable River Steward, canoe guide, and fire tower summit steward (Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain). When not advocating ecological integrity, Kevin is an avid ice climber and adventurer.

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