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New Year’s Resolution Wanted: No More Raids on NY Green Piggy Bank

December 28, 2009

NEW YORK - It's the time of year for resolutions, and environmentalists are calling on Gov. Paterson to resolve to stop raiding New York's Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). In the last two years, the governor and state lawmakers have taken $185 million from the fund, known to some as the state's "Green Piggy Bank."

In a new report, Environmental Advocates of New York says one out of every four dollars appropriated to the fund ended up being swept into the general budget. Dave Gahl, Environmental Advocates policy director, says diverting the money hurts local governments and nonprofits that count on the state to pay its share for ongoing programs.

"To protect water quality, to clean up municipal parks, to support local museums like zoos and botanical gardens, to do research on environmental factors related to breast cancer - you name it, the EPF supports a lot of different kinds of projects."

Gahl says half a billion dollars has been swept from the fund since it was started in 1993. The governor's office says that even after the General Fund transfers, New York still will spend record amounts for environmental protection this year.

One program taking a million-dollar hit is the Hudson River Estuary Program. Andy Bicking, director of public policy for Scenic Hudson, says that money is supposed to be used to help towns, cities and even private industry preserve waterfronts.

"These funds are intended to make sure we have clean water, that we're prepared for climate change and that we protect the beautiful, scenic lands in the region that are so critical to our $4.7 billion tourism industry."

Gahl says Paterson started an approval process that slows environmental spending. The governor says the controls are needed to slow the state's fiscal crisis, but Gahl says it's not working.

"The governor's got to stop cutting green initiatives and instead has got cut some of the red tape that makes it difficult to spend these funds. These projects help create jobs, and that's what we need to be doing right now in this economy."

The full report is available at http://eany.org/issues/reports/TiedUpInKnots_FINAL.pdf.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY