Gov. Andrew Cuomo included in his executive budget a $19 million increase for the state’s Environmental Protection Fund, a key priority for environmental groups.
“We’ve held it harmless over the past two years, during very, very difficult budget times,” Cuomo said yesterday. “But we held it flat.”
He called for a $15 million increase plus an additional $4 million to $8 million from stronger enforcement of the bottle bill.
Jessica Ottney Mahar, the Nature Conservancy’s director of government relations, applauded the proposal.
“The EPF was stagnant at $134 million for a few years, and actually we were thankful that it was maintained in really tough budget times, with these big multibillion dollar deficits,” she said of the fund, which pays for things like farmland protection, open space conservation and coastal resilience. “So we were appreciative of that, but it’s especially encouraging to see that the governor really recommitted to it today through an increase in the appropriation.”
The $19 million increase is also greater than a $10 million increase in a bill the governor vetoed last year on the grounds that it should be addressed in the budget, though the bill also phased in a $56 million increase over six years.