Albany, NY – Gov. Kathy Hochul presented her Executive Budget proposal on Tuesday morning [Jan. 16], promoting efforts to fight climate change and make New York safer and more affordable, but when full budget details were released on Tuesday evening, the proposal included cuts to critical environmental programs such as the Clean Water Infrastructure Act, Adirondack Diversity Initiative, Timbuctoo Summer Climate and Careers Institute and Survey of Climate and Adirondack Lakes Ecosystems (SCALE).
“By cutting the Timbuctoo Institute and SCALE research project, the Governor is not making a fiscal statement. She is making a policy statement,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director Raul J. Aguirre. “You don’t close a $4 billion budget gap by cutting $4 million in science and high school programming that offer outsized benefits for frontline and disadvantaged communities.”
While the Governor proposed laudable measures to fund water infrastructure projects in rural communities during her State of the State address last week, her budget proposes to cut annual water infrastructure spending in half, from $500 million to $250 million.
“The Adirondack Council has worked hard for the last eight years to make water infrastructure projects more affordable for Adirondack communities,” Aguirre said. “We applauded the Governor’s proposal to double the State’s grant cap last week, but her proposal to cut funding in half will have the opposite effect on water affordability for New Yorkers.”
The Environmental Protection Fund, a cornerstone of state funding for the Adirondack Park, also suffered a blow, with a proposed $25 million raid for staffing-related expenses. A key element of recent Adirondack budgets, the Adirondack North Country Association’s Adirondack Diversity Initiative, was also cut from $420,000 to $300,000.
On a positive note, the Executive proposed to dedicate $8 million for Adirondack and Catskill Visitor Safety and Wilderness Protection, a category long-supported by the Adirondack Council, for combatting overuse on the Forest Preserve.
Leaders of both houses of the Legislature are expected to present their own budget proposals in the weeks ahead. The deadline for adopting a new state budget is April 1.
“We call upon the Governor to correct these measures that will harm safety and affordability for those who live in and those who benefit from the Adirondacks, when she submits her 30-day amendments to this budget,” Aguirre said. “We will work with the Legislature to restore the funding cut from the SCALE scientific effort and the Timbuctoo Summer Climate Careers Institute.
“We believe these programs have already shown themselves to be of great value to the state and the urban and rural communities that have been engaged,” he explained. “Given the uncertainty of federal support for science and climate career training, it is more important than ever for New York to have small-cost, high-value job-training programs and scientific studies like these.”
The Adirondack Council doesn’t solicit or accept government grants. It is a privately funded, not-for-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the ecological integrity and wild character of the 9,300-square-mile Adirondack Park – the world’s largest intact temperate deciduous forest ecosystem and home to about 130,000 New York residents in 130 rural communities.
Established in 1975, the Adirondack Council is the largest environmental organization whose sole focus is the Adirondacks. The Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action. The Adirondack Council envisions a Park with clean water and clean air, core wilderness areas, farms and working forests, and vibrant, diverse, welcoming, safe communities.
Photo at top: Sagamore Lake is one of 58 lakes that regularly monitored as part of a state-funded program that is now managed by the Adirondack Watershed Institute. Adirondack Explorer file photo.