Protecting Our Environment For Future Generations
Senator Carl L. Marcellino (R-Syosset) Chairman of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee and Assemblyman Thomas DiNapoli (D -Great Neck) Chairman of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee joined with conservation and environmental groups to announce new legislation that will increase the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) for years to come.
Most people would agree that protecting our environment is a top priority and in 1993 the New York State Legislature created a dedicated funding mechanism to support projects and programs that protect the water we drink the air we breathe and the quality and safety of the communities we call home.
"This legislation is positive proof that we are committed to preserving our natural resources. By doubling the funding in the EPF, we will be going a long way in cleaning our water, preserving our open space, and keeping New York State the environment crown jewel of our great Nation," said Senator Marcellino.
"Clean air, clean water, open space, farmland and biodiversity are not luxuries, they are basic essential needs. If we don’t increase the funding to protect these critical natural resources, then it will be our children and future generations that will pay the price," DiNapoli stated. This bipartisan legislation, which I am proud to be sponsoring with Senator Marcellino, is an important first step to ensure that our essential environmental legacy can be protected," said Assemblyman DiNapoli.
The Real Estate transfer tax (RETT) is the primary revenue source for the EPF. However, a smaller and smaller percentage has been dedicated to conservation, while at the same time the cost of environmental protection has increased. Currently, less than 1.1 cent per dollar of state revenues goes to the environment. This is a lower rate than at any other time in the last ten years and is well below the national average.
This new legislation, which is being introduced in both houses today, will permanently increase the portion of the RETT that is dedicated to the EPF and provide a mechanism to ensure that any future growth in RETT revenues driven by development is rightly dedicated to the preservation of the environment. The bill will increase funding available for the environment through the EPF from its current level of $150 million to $225 million for the 2007-08 fiscal year , and to a permanent $300 million beginning in the 2008-09 fiscal year. In addition, any annual RETT receipts in excess of $750 million will also be dedicated to environmental purposes through the EPF.
"Farmers depend upon the EPF for necessary funding to help preserve working farmland from ever encroaching development and suburban sprawl and provide critical protection of water quality in New York State," said Jeff Williams, Legislative Director for New York Farm Bureau. "While much work has been done on these fronts, an increased EPF will help farmers expand and enhance their efforts to protect the environment on their farms and communities," Jeff Williams continued.
Increased dedicated state environmental conservation funding, $300 million a year, is needed to build on the progress we have made over the last ten years and conserve New York’s clean water, open space and last remaining natural areas before it’s too late," stated Henry Tepper, State Director of the Natural Conservancy New York.
The EPF has been a vital tool in supporting the State’s commitment to protecting open space. Since 1995, the State has invested more than $586 million to acquire and protect more than 932,000 acres. Other programs funded by the EPF include the Long Island Pine Barrens Commission, the South Shore Estuary Reserve, the Oyster Bay Waterfront, the Hudson River Estuary Program, municipal recycling programs, and pollution control programs.
"New Yorkers want clean water. They want places to fish, hike and swim. New Yorkers want playgrounds for their kids and their neighborhoods to be free on toxins and garbage. The good news is that New Yorkers can have the environment they want, all it takes is money. But for too long New York’s investment in its environment has been slipping. We have lost opportunities to save natural areas and in many places our parks are deteriorating. That is why Sierra Club - Atlantic Chapter is excited to support Assemblyman DiNapoli and Senator Marcellino’s legislation to double New York’s investment in it’s environment," concluded John Stouffer, Legislative Director.