NEW YORK, NY (February 3, 2023)—Statement from Kim Elliman, President and CEO of the Open Space Institute:
Governor Kathy Hochul’s 2023-24 proposed state budget is an important first step toward furthering the state’s commitment to protecting the water, lands, and clean air that sustain all New Yorkers. The proposed budget builds on New York’s passage of the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Bond Act and includes dedicated staffing to administer the program which will help New York State prioritize water protection, reduce carbon in our atmosphere, address flooding threats in the wake of climate change, and protect at-risk land.
In addition, OSI enthusiastically endorses Governor Hochul’s proposal to maintain the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) at its historic $400 million funding level. The fund is New York’s most important source of funding for a range of critical environmental protection projects, such as meeting the growing demand for parks and greenspace for people and wildlife, safeguarding New York’s clear air and water, and protecting working farms.
At the same time, several components of the proposed EPF allocations require additional scrutiny. First, OSI urges the restoration of a proposed reduction for land acquisition in the EPF. Strategic land conservation supported by the EPF plays a critical role in protecting New York’s drinking water sources, fighting climate change, safeguarding wildlife habitat, providing New Yorkers places to spend time in the outdoors, and so much more. Improving the public’s access to protected and publicly accessible land and parks and is among the great achievements and lasting legacies of the EPF.
In addition, while OSI wholeheartedly supports increased staffing levels of both Parks and DEC staff, the governor’s proposal allowing for the offloading of agency staff costs into the EPF undermines the integrity of the Fund. As such, we reject language that would allow EPF funds to be used for state agency staffing.
Lastly, we urge the restoration of State Parks capital funding to $250 million.
As the 2023-24 legislative session gets underway, we look forward to working with Governor Hochul, her administration, and the legislature to enact a budget that moves New York State forward as a national leader in addressing the climate crisis, improving and creating access to nature and the outdoors, and ensuring that that water and air we need are protected for generations to come.