Thursday, October 6, 2022

It’s Debatable: Environmental Bond Act

sewer

Highway and water supervisor Jason Monroe, left, and Town Supervisor Craig Leggett discuss water and sewer issues on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, in Pottersville in the Town of Chester, N.Y. PHOTO BY CINDY SCHULTZ

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

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11 Responses

  1. Bill Keller says:

    Why borrow?. Tax the polluters.. The large utilities, power producers, and fossil fuel industry groups have significantly increased the amount they spend on state and local lobbyists in an effort to stop or slow landmark climate justice bills on state lawmakers’ agendas. NY politicians solution, lets borrow money and increase the burden on all taxpayers. “Fossil fuel companies have for too long poisoned Black, brown and low-income communities while buying their way out of consequences. Instead of lining the pockets of Albany lobbying firms and state legislators, we need to make big polluters pay their fair share. A good place to start is for them to foot the cost of the bond act without passing it on to it’s consumers.

    • Mike says:

      Let’s start by taxing large polluting energy vacuums like chip fab plants. Oh wait… we can’t do that; NY politicians give them a blank check every year. Instead let’s tax the heck out of power producers so we can pretend it won’t be passed on to middle class taxpayers.

    • adkDreamer says:

      The US Energy Information Administration lists zero (0) oil refineries in New York State. Please tell me where and what populations In New York are affected by fossil fuel industry groups and name the groups.

      I would ask Gov. Kathy Hochul to explain why Crypto Minning companies in New York are allowed to revitalize old coal power plants generating electricity at 1/5th the cost that everyone else in New York pays.

      Oh and please read the so-called ‘study’ referenced by the Climate Commission that poo-poos wood stoves. They want your wood stoves folks and the insurance companies are already on board with the idea, raising premiums for those with wood stoves. It just happened to me.

      Future steps for New York Environmentalists: Next time you visit a State Park or campground, plan on paying for your fire pit use fee in addition to your camping site fee, that is if you can even find a state campsite that allows for fire pits in the near future.

      • ADKresident says:

        “Oh and please read the so-called ‘study’ referenced by the Climate Commission that poo-poos wood stoves. They want your wood stoves folks and the insurance companies are already on board with the idea, raising premiums for those with wood stoves. It just happened to me….”

        Is this for real?

        Not that I am doubting your research at all, adkDreamer, but the more details I learn or hear regarding what these government “climate” bureaucrats are doing (or not doing), the less I trust their motive$ and need to follow the $. (Similar to the mandatory vaccines, which have filled certain ‘experts’ pockets by the million$, and in some cases billion$, while bankrupting 1000s of ‘little guys’). Smells like the same bureaucracy, just a different scenario. It’s definitely worth doing greater research by following the $ trails….TY!

        • adkDreamer says:

          See the article on this forum: ‘Heating with Wood this Winter’ by Richard Gast. https://www.adirondackalmanack.com/2022/10/heating-with-wood-this-winter.html
          You will find my similar comment there as well.

          Read : Climate Action Council’s Advisory Panel Draft Plan. Find the wood stove ‘study’ referenced in the ‘plan’, then search for and find the ‘study’ (performed in the village of Saranac Lake) and you will quickly realize that it was conducted and authored by a someone who simply desires a participation trophy. (Think of sampling air quality 6 inches from the tail pipe of an automobile and then drawing conclusions about clean air and health for the entire world)

          Most of the really painful wood stove warriors are out West, but rest assured, the anti wood stove factions are peddling their message of wood stove doom here and now.

  2. JB says:

    In this case, I think that Gwen Craig’s article linked above is much more informative than either of these polarized opinions. That article enumerates some of the pros and cons of this type of spending that everyone needs to consider.

    On the one hand, more money has not always been good for communities or the environment, especially in the Adirondacks. A relatively small amount of funding for APA or DEC staff (along with a culture change) could do a lot more good, for example, than a large amount of money for ORDA. Similarly, I don’t think that creating new conservation easements in the Adirondacks, or even adding land to the Forest Preserve, should be a priority until the state figures out how to manage the lands that it already does control in accordance with the APSLMP (and common sense). And, forgetting ORDA, how much of this money would just end up going towards things like Downtown Revitalization Initiatives disguised as “environmental projects”? There are plenty (maybe even too many) of those types of grants that have been awarded in the Adirondacks, and I’m still waiting to see what impacts they have; I don’t expect the environment to win out in any case.

    On the other hand, New York State is a big (and very populated) state with a deteriorating environment. Statewide, forest loss to exurban sprawl is occurring more rapidly in New York than anywhere else in the Northeast, by far. And things like water pollution from inadequate waste-water treatment plants or high densities of poorly sited septic systems are issues everywhere, not just in the Adirondack Park. Billions of dollars could easily be sunk into helping to combat those issues alone — whether it would be effective or not depends on, again, institutional culture and spending strategy.

    As controversial as it is in the North Country, I think that the biggest selling point of the new Bond Act would be the provision to allocate a substantial portion of the funding to “disadvantaged communities” — which, as defined (flawed or not), virtually all lie outside of the Adirondack Park. And this is not because I’m a proponent of “distributive justice”, but because I strongly support the sentiment that it is about time that we stop treating the Adirondacks like it is unaffected by the condition of the environment elsewhere. Yes, it is true that the Adirondack Park no longer needs the lion’s share of any $4 billion environmental Bond Act funding, by virtue of all of the attention and work that has gone into protecting it for the past 150 years. But even to those with more local concerns, consider that if we had reasonable land-use planning throughout the rest of the state, there wouldn’t be as much development pressure in the Adirondacks. And consider that if there were reasonable amounts of wildlands throughout the rest of the state, there wouldn’t be as much overuse of Forest Preserve, over-logging of Adirondack private lands (the economic argument there is beyond the scope here), etc, etc.

    I may be wrong, but I think that 30 days of campaigning is not going to be enough to sort this all out. And the harms may outweigh the good if accountability and common sense aren’t built in.

  3. Bill Keller says:

    ” than either of these polarized opinions”. So charging the polluters to fix clean water and air problems are polarizing? Only for the corporations. New York is $160 billion in debt that’s projected to go to $206 billion by 2027 what’s another $4.2 billion more.

  4. Tom Paine says:

    Vote NO!! Future generations of NYS residents being sold into endless unaccountable government debt.

  5. W. Howard says:

    The arguments against the bond are too weak. You guys need to say something like, ‘What dirty water? What dirty air”?

    If you have dirty water and dirty air in your town, vote for the bond. Otherwise vote against it. These environmental issues are used as a vague boogie man to scare people into turning over their rights and hard work for money that will just be wasted NOT on what the bond even intended.

    There is already plenty of money in the budge for Environmental clean up. Good Lord, we have ARMED environmental police. What the heck is going on?

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