Editor’s note: This commentary is in the Sept/Oct 2022 issue of Adirondack Explorer magazine, as part of our “It’s Debatable” feature. In this regular column, we invite organizations and/or individuals to address a particular issue. For more on this issue, read the issue’s cover story by Gwendolyn Craig. Click here to subscribe to the magazine, available in both print and digital formats: www.adirondackexplorer.org/subscribe.
The question: Should voters approve an environmental bond act?
Too much debt, spending already
New York is addicted to spending and borrowing, and state taxpayers are drowning in debt, thanks to some of the highest taxes and fees in the nation and a financially devastating 9.1 percent inflation rate that shows no signs of abating.
Now, the state wants to borrow and spend even more, as families find themselves forgoing simple necessities because they just don’t have enough money to pay for them.
It’s a hard slap in the face when you consider that Albany increased the state budget from $177 billion to $220.5 billion in the past two years alone.
Gov. Kathy Hochul and her Democrat colleagues in the Legislature are now promoting a $4.2 billion bond act that voters will decide on in November. It’s being trumpeted in the loftiest terms—“The Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022”—but in reality, it’s a vague and amorphous ballot proposal that’s more about politics than it is about clear environmental goals.
It’s no coincidence that Hochul is promoting this in the same year she’s running for governor. The bond act would provide millions of dollars to various environmental interest groups that she wants in her corner. Call it pork barrel borrowing.
What the governor and her Democrat colleagues in Albany don’t want you to know is that money from New York’s 1996, $1.75 billion environmental bond act remains unspent. If it’s so essential to borrow an additional $4.2 billion this year, why haven’t we spent down the environmental funds we borrowed 26 years ago?
The New York State Conservative Party cares about environmental conservation, but it also cares about working- and middle-class families that are having trouble making ends meet. Almost a million and a half financially beleaguered New York families have fled the state for friendlier tax climes over the past dozen years, and Albany Democrats still don’t get it. The Conservative Party does because it is rooted in reality.
To get a sense of how out of whack New York taxing and spending has become, consider this: Florida and Texas each have larger populations than New York with annual budgets about half the size of ours. And Texas and Florida enjoy faster growing economies than New York’s. That’s no coincidence.
You’ll soon see ads extolling the urgent necessity of borrowing billions more this year. It’s a sham. How about using money we’ve already borrowed first?
— Gerard Kassar is president of the New York State Conservative Party
Vote for the bond act and for future generations
Clean, safe water is essential to human life. Currently, New York’s outdated water infrastructure is threatening our access to clean and safe drinking water, with the fourth highest number of lead pipes carrying drinking water in the country. All New Yorkers —across party lines—need clean, safe drinking water, and repairing our outdated and unsafe infrastructure cannot be a partisan issue.
Now is the time to make critical investments that will protect our most valuable resources for future generations. On Nov. 8, New York voters will have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to protect clean drinking water, modernize our infrastructure and improve quality of life across the state.
The Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Bond Act is a ballot initiative that would authorize $4.2 billion in state spending to safeguard clean air and water, preserve farmland and natural space and update our infrastructure system.
The bond act will fund projects to replace dangerous lead pipes and make critical infrastructure updates, from upgrading our sewers, fixing roads, retrofitting buildings and expanding clean energy. It will also create and expand parks and green spaces, which we’ve all heavily relied on throughout the pandemic. The measure will support family farms and provide funds for improved soil health and will fund conservation projects that will protect our forests, lakes and wildlife habitats.
All these projects require skilled labor and the measure will support nearly 100,000 good, local and family-sustaining jobs. We also recognize that for decades, low-income communities and people of color are the most impacted by environmental injustices.
The bond act will ensure all New Yorkers are protected by ensuring 35-40 percent of funds go to projects in disadvantaged communities (defined in the legislation as regions prone to floods, urban heat and climate change impacts, and those deserving based on pollution, negative public health outcomes, environmental hazards, socioeconomic needs and historic discrimination.)
When you head to your polling site Election Day, you will be faced with a critical decision. By voting yes on the environmental bond act, we will protect clean water and air, public health, and our stunning natural resources for generations to come. On Nov. 8, flip your ballot and make your mark to protect New York’s most vital natural resources. ν
— Julie Tighe is president of the New York League of Conservation Voters
Photo: Highway and water supervisor Jason Monroe, left, and Chester Town Supervisor Craig Leggett discuss water and sewer issues in in 2021 in Pottersville. Adirondack Explorer photo by Cindy Schultz