Thursday, January 24, 2008

Spitzer’s Budget Proposals: Adirondack Edition

The latest on Governor Eliot Spitzer’s Budget Proposals courtesy of John F. Sheehan
Communications Director of The Adirondack Council:

Below is a summary of the NYS Budget as it relates to the Adirondack Park and the NYS Environmental Protection Fund.

Adirondack Park Agency

Budget same as last year ($6.2 million; $700,000 is federal money)

Staff remains the same at 72

$350,000 increase for computers and cars (located in DEC’s capital projects budget)

Olympic Regional Development Authority

– State Budget would rise to $8.6 million

– Total budget $32 million – they get most of their revenue from lift tickets

– $400,000 increase (benefits, retirement)

– staff level stays the same at 203

Department of Environmental Conservation

– Total budget $1.1 billion

– Decrease of $31 million from last year

– half of that decrease caused by reductions in federal aid

– DEC will eliminate some local and regional initiatives to compensate

– Total employees up by 4 to 3,752 (two of the 4 are likely to be assigned to invasive species control programs)

Environmental Protection Fund

Total of $250 million (guaranteed in statute) – $25 million could be added if the Bigger Better Bottle Bill is approved

Land

$66 million of the $250 is for open space protection statewide – that means purchases of new public lands and parks, conservation easements (development-limiting agreements with private landowners).

The other $184 million will go into the two other broad categories: Municipal recycling and solid waste projects and state parks, historic preservation and zoos/botanical gardens.

Additional Projects/Other Changes

Masten House – $125,000 from the EPF goes to SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry to purchase and rehabilitate the Masten House, on the site of the former iron mines in Tahawus, Town of Newcomb, Essex County. It will become a forestry research facility for the college, which owns nearby Huntington Experimental Forest. The college is based in Syracuse.

There are also three new categories in the EPF from which money may be drawn for specific purposes:

1. Air quality enforcement (only vague details available)

2. Renewable solar energy (community college tech training programs)

3. Farmland protection (plastic-waste and pesticide management programs)

Smart Growth Back at Department of State

This grant program to encourage environmentally sound community planning rises from $2 million to $2.5 million. It was transferred back to the Department of State, where the program started, after spending one year under DEC’s supervision in 2007.

The Sweep-Out

This is the worst news of the day, but not quite unexpected. Due to the $4.5-billion budget shortfall projected by the comptroller, the Governor will “borrow” $100 million of the unspent funds of previous EPFs. This is the largest sweep-out proposed since Governor Pataki started this distasteful practice more than five years ago.

Since the EPF was created in 1993, a total of $322 million in unspent EPF revenue has been diverted to other state purposes. If the Governor’s proposal is accepted, that amount would jump to $422 million in unredeemed IOUs. That would be nearly two years’ worth of missing revenues.

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John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for more than 45 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John's Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on North Country Public Radio and on WSLP Lake Placid.

He is also on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute and edits The New York History Blog. He is the author of two books of regional history.




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