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Environmental Initiatives Could Help Balance State Budget?

March 30, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas - A bundle of environmental initiatives is being promoted as a way to help Texas raise desperately needed revenues.

As the state House debates a budget this week that proposes massive cuts to public education, Medicaid and social service programs, a coalition of environmental groups has presented a road map for raising more than $1 billion for state coffers, according to Robin Schneider, who directs the Texas Campaign for the Environment, part of the Alliance for a Clean Texas.

"We're at a crisis right now, and so we came together and put a lot of ideas on the table about different ways that Texas could do right by the environment, by public health, and by the state budget."

Among the proposals: charging fees related to control pollution, coal importers and purchasers of inefficient vehicles. With today's revenue crisis, Schneider says, lawmakers are more receptive to initiatives that special interests were able to block in recent years.

Instituting a refundable deposit program for cans and bottles would create thousands of jobs in the recycling industry, according to the alliance, and Schneider says it brings the added benefit of helping keep Texas streets free of litter.

"And because there are always some unrefunded deposits, there's money left over for other things. So it's really a win-win-win all the way around."

Another bill supported by the environmental alliance would strengthen clean-air rules, generating about $40 million through increased penalties. The measure could also save the state more than $320 million in pollution-related health-care expenditures, Schneider says.

The Alliance for a Clean Texas also includes the Texas League of Conservation Voters, Public Citizen, Environment Texas, the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club and Texas Impact.

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX