Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Behind the scenes look at the governor’s budget reveal

Gov Kathy Hochul, wearing red, at a podium

Last week, Gov. Kathy Hochul presented her $227 billion executive budget in Albany. Here’s a little glimpse into how it all unfolds for reporters in Albany.

First, we get a state budget book that highlights the governor’s priorities and gives a narrative of where the state’s fiscal position is headed. In that book I searched for “Adirondack” and found one mention. Then we attended the governor’s official budget address held in the Red Room, the governor’s main press conference room on the second floor of the state Capitol. This speech is a boiled down version of the book. This was also my opportunity to take photos. The governor held a press conference shortly after her presentation before a procession of us headed to the Blue Room, another room on the second floor of the Capitol. There, reporters heard from Acting Budget Director Sandra Beattie. As those conferences were going on, the state Division of Budget released the governor’s proposed budget bills. These are nine lengthy documents focused on big topics like transportation, the environment and local governments that include more nitty gritty information and specific dollar amounts. This is where word searching is very helpful and how I found some more specifics about what Adirondack Park projects might get funding.

In case you missed it, here is our roundup story about some of the things proposed in the governor’s budget. Later, I found out the governor is not proposing any funding for a climate survey of the Adirondack Park’s lakes. This took me a few days to confirm with the governor’s office. A spokesperson said, “While a direct appropriation is not allocated in the budget for this specific project, DEC will continue to incentivize projects that advance our research needs and address the health of our waterbodies through the resources proposed in the Governor’s budget.”

Of course, budget talk isn’t over. The state legislature is holding budget hearings throughout the next few weeks. A final budget is supposed to be passed by April 1. It’s usually a few days late, at least in my few years covering it. I’ll particularly be paying attention to the environmental conservation budget. That hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 14. It will be a very busy Valentine’s Day for lawmakers and environmental organizations.

In case you missed it, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has released draft forest preserve work plans for public comment. These plans are the result of discussions from a working group formed after the state Court of Appeal’s decision nearly two years ago involving tree cutting for certain kinds of snowmobile trails. You can read more about the proposed work plans and how to submit comments here.

There are a few meetings that may interest you coming up this week. At 7 p.m. on Wednesday and 10 a.m. on Thursday, three state agencies are hosting a public information meeting about the future management of John Brown Farm State Historic Site in North Elba. The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, DEC and Adirondack Park Agency are looking for the public’s input on a unit management plan for the area. Unit management plans include the natural and physical resources of an area in the Adirondack Park and outline recreational and other project opportunities. You can read more about the meetings and how to participate here: https://www.adirondackalmanack.com/2023/01/virtual-public-information-meetings-for-john-brown-farm-state-historic-site-ump-feb-8-and-9.html.

The APA is also meeting this Thursday. Commissioners are slated to hear a proposed land use amendment in the town of Lake George, a presentation on the environmental impacts of roads, more on the questions of roads within wild forest lands and more. The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. More on how to watch and the full agenda is available here: https://apa.ny.gov/Mailing/2023/02/FullAgency/AgencyMonthlyAgendaFeb2023.pdf.

On another note, I checked in with the DEC and Essex County to see how use of the shuttle bus system went last year. The answer? They weren’t used very much. “We just weren’t getting the juice from the squeeze,” said Shaun Gillilland, chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors. Since posting the story, we heard from some of you who suggested the shuttles run earlier in the day and later at night. We’re still waiting on what the DEC and Essex County might decide to do for this upcoming hiking season. You can read the story here: https://www.adirondackexplorer.org/stories/whats-next-for-free-hiker-shuttles.

Photo at top: Gov. Kathy Hochul, taken by Gwendolyn Craig

This first appeared in Gwen’s weekly “Adirondack Report” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

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Gwen is the environmental policy reporter for Adirondack Explorer.

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