“They can’t come to an agreement on a broader budget cleanup bill,” said Sean Mahar, a spokesman for the New York Audubon Society.
“From what I can understand about the issue, there are a number of other budget issues that certain houses want to see amended, and they dont want to do just one specific part of the budget to get this addressed. They want to fix this issue, yet they can’t come to an agreement,” he said.
As we reported yesterday, the federal government disapproves of a provision in Cuomo’s 2012 budget allowing the executive branch to move money in and out of special funds, and won’t release $10.1 million in aid to the state’s Conservation Fund until the budget language is changed to ensure the money can’t be used for anything other than its originally designated purpose.
The problem seemed like it was resolved in February this year, when the Administration sought to change budget language to satisfy the federal government and received assurance from the Fish and Wildlife Service that the language was satisfactory.
Subsequent late-night budget negotiations added the language back in, jeopardizing the funding, Mahar explained.
“One house of the legislature added a section called 13 a to the budget, very late in the process, and during late night budget negotiations they did not realize it was going to be an issue,” Mahar said.
The technical fix would be very simple to do, Mahar said.
“It’s a costly one sentence line that needs to be added or we lose 20 million dollars. This is a huge hit to DEC’s operating budget,” he said.
As we reported yesterday, the budget language has to be changed by today, or the Conservation Fund will lose $10.1 million in funding, said Jason Kemper, chairman of the State Conservation Fund’s Advisory Board.
The funding would pay for 18 permanent staff and 137 seasonal staff positions, and several planned ecological and sport hunting and trapping studies, Kemper said.
The planned studies include: estimation of moose population in the Adirondacks, a bear study with (Cornell University), a coyote foraging ecology study, a pine marten ecology study, furbearer harvest estimates, migratory game bird harvest estimates, a pheasant habitat, small game and big game hunter surveys, development and implementation of management plans for various species of birds and mammals (including endangered and threatened species – bald eagle, peregrine falcon, spruce grouse), and evaluation of hunters and wildlife enthusiast preferences.
We reported yesterday that Kemper reached out to lawmakers supportive of hunting and wildlife conservation, such as Sens. George Maziarz and John DeFrancisco to seek their help on getting an amendment to the budget language that would protect the fund.
“All the feds are asking for is something guaranteed in law that the administration cannot sweep the Conservation fund,” Kemper said.
“The only rule the feds have is you can’t use federally designated funding for something else. That’s what’s so frustrating,” he said, adding, “I was told by the administration in January that this would be fixed and handled.”
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