Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Discussion: An Adirondack Green New Deal

At the end of last month’s global warming conference a few participants were standing around talking philosophically about how to position the Adirondacks as a leader in the future green economy.

One local planner saw abandoned DOT lots along the Northway becoming park n’ rides, linked to local communities by bike and hiking paths, others envisioned them as green centers that connected mass transport, local information centers, and charging stations for locally produced energy. Someone else suggested painting a green stripe across every roadway that enters the Adirondacks – an unambiguous sign that you are entering a region where economics and the environment live hand and hand. Redraw the Blue Line as a Green Line.

SUNY Albany History Professor Lawrence S. Wittner, in a recent article at the History News Network, suggested that cuts in programs for education and healthcare proposed by Governor Patterson is the wrong way to climb out of our current economic recession. He pointed to the the inequities Adirondackers, and all New Yorkers, face:

The major reason the New York State budget is out of balance today—and has been intermittently for decades now—is that, for the last thirty years, the state has been cutting the tax rate for the top income New Yorkers. Specifically, driven by the desire to create a “business-friendly environment” in New York State, successive governors have succeeded in gradually lowering the tax rate for people in the top income bracket from 15.38 percent to 6.85 percent.

Thus, today, despite its liberal image, New York has a rather flat income tax rate, ranging from a low of 4 percent to a high of 6.85 percent… One of the state’s highly-respected think tanks, the Fiscal Policy Institute, estimates that a very small, temporary increase in the tax rates on the highest-income New Yorkers could yield as much as $7 billion per year—more than enough to cover the state’s projected fiscal woes.

Witner argues nothing less then that “government spending—and particularly spending that is funded by taxes on the wealthy—can also help to jump start the economy.” Witner connects his plan with the New Deal plans of FDR, which began with New York:

During the first years of the Great Depression, when Franklin Roosevelt served as governor, New York was one of the incubators of the New Deal’s Keynesian approach. A staunch backer of unemployment insurance, Roosevelt became the first governor in the nation to demand state aid for relief. Moreover, New York’s Temporary Emergency Relief Administration served as the first state relief agency in the country. Governor Roosevelt was also a keen advocate of expanding New York State’s investment in public power programs and of having the state buy up abandoned farms for the purpose of reforestation. In New York City, too, the municipal government reacted to the Great Depression by investing heavily in upgrading the city’s infrastructure. It established new (and free) city colleges like Brooklyn College (in 1930) and Queens College (in 1937), and opened its first city-owned subway line (in 1932).

So folks, if we need a New Deal, and we want it to be a Green New Deal led by our region – what proposals do you have?

What projects, small and large, can we do locally and regionally to advance a Green New Deal?

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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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