Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Legislature Successfully Defends Paterson's Assualt On EPF

The following is not without some negative. The legislature did in some ways gut the EPF, but it didn't allow David A. Paterson to milk the EPF to cover his shortcomings as a leader. The legislature prevented him from using the EPF as a rainy day fund for the states day to day expenses, which was his initial goal.

The bottom line was that they cut about $78 million out of the EPF to fund the $11 million it (supposedly) cost to reopen the state parks and campgrounds that were closed.

I'm the first one to admit I'm not super smooth at math, but something isn't right. Basically Paterson held the NY State Parks as hostages while he demanded the funds from the EPF. So what he did was he said, the park system, which saw record visitation last year (and I'll assume near record revenue, or I'll again assume probably broke even in expenses) was too expensive to run, so if the legislature wanted to appease it's constituents it would have to deal the EPF.

See, unlike most of the Forest Preserve or the EPF, people and towns feel the crunch of the park closures instantly. It really hits home. Paterson tossed a grenade into the assembly and senate chambers and waited for someone to dive on it. Of course, there probably isn't one upstanding human being in the legislature, so they did the only thing they could, they tossed the EPF on it to save themselves.

Paterson is gutless, he's potentially a moron, but someone smart is pulling the puppet strings behind this guy. This was a move Joe "Prison Bound" Bruno would have been proud of.

Regardless, it's good to see New York State politics remain as corrupt as when Theodore Roosevelt literally had to break a leg off a chair to defend himself on the floor of the state capitol because he was one of just a few members of our government who would not tolerate the corrupt antics of our law makers.

ALBANY, N.Y. – The Adirondack Council today thanked the leaders of the NYS Senate and Assembly for standing up to a flurry of attacks on the NYS Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) proposed by Gov. David Paterson during this year’s budget negotiations.

Legislators today passed bills agreed to yesterday with Gov. Paterson that would reopen the state parks, historic sites and campgrounds closed by the Governor, while also preserving the funding and traditional spending priorities of the EPF.

While the overall spending levels for the EPF for FY 2010-11 are lower than the organization had hoped, the group praised the two Environmental Conservation committee Chairmen (Sen. Antoine Thompson of Buffalo and Assemblyman Robert Sweeney of Lindenhurst), as well as Senate Conference Leader John Sampson and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, for making numerous improvements to the EPF in light of a $9 billion budget deficit.

“Today’s legislation would preserve the reliable funding source and the integrity of the Environmental Protection Fund, while reopening the state’s parks and campgrounds before the Memorial Day weekend,” said Brian L. Houseal, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council. “It would also allow the state to live up to some of its existing commitments to purchase and protect critical lands and waters that have been identified by the public for their recreational and ecological importance.”

The EPF’s 2010-11 total funding will be $134 million, down significantly from $222 million last year. The open space account for 2010-11 contains $17.6 million, much less than the $60 million from 2009-10, but it also rescinds Governor Paterson’s proposed moratorium on land protection. It is our understanding that the Governor has agreed to spend this money on land protection projects that the Legislature has allocated.

Not included in the EPF’s expenses are $11 million the Governor had proposed for paying state employees and day-to-day expenses at parks and historic sites. Also not included in the EPF’s expenses are $5 million for a portion of the state’s payment of taxes to local governments for state-owned land across the state. Both of those expenses are due to come from the state budget’s General Fund, as they have in past years.

“Legislative leaders recognize that all New Yorkers need clean air, clean water and safe places to play. We also need the tourism revenue that our parks, campgrounds and Forest Preserves and other open spaces provide to our citizens,” Houseal said. “We are grateful that they did so much to improve on the Governor’s plan.”

The EPF was created in 1993 and is funded primarily through a small Real Estate Transfer fee, to fund major environmental expenses. Eligible projects include municipal landfill closure, purchase and construction of recycling facilities and transfer stations; as well as the purchase of new lands and parks for environmental protection, recreation and historic preservation.

The EPF is a capital-projects-only fund, to ensure that its revenues would not be siphoned into paying day-to-day expenses, such as state employee salaries and benefits.

“If state agencies were allowed to pay their employees out of the EPF account, the EPF would be dry in just a few years,” Houseal explained. “We would never fund another capital project out of it. We’d be right back to borrowing for everything. Nobody wants that.”

“Governor Paterson followed the lead of his predecessors and tried to use the EPF to pay for staff and other administrative expenses,” Houseal said. “He wanted to change the very structure of the EPF. We are pleased the Legislature said ‘no.’”

The final agreement on the EPF passed both houses earlier today. The Assembly passed the bill by a vote of 86-47 just before 3 AM early Friday morning. The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 32-27 at 2:30 PM.

The Adirondack Council’s mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park. Founded in 1975, the Council is a privately funded not-for-profit organization with 18,000 members in all 50 United States. The Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action.

Additional comments on the "poisoned pill" compromise:

Land state should buy isn’t all in Ad’ks

To the editor:

In regard to your June 3 editorial ("This year, of all years, NY can't afford land"), it is critically important that Daily Enterprise readers understand that the Environmental Protection Fund preserves sensitive habitat, not just in the Adirondacks but around the state.

While the North County is blessed with abundant nature and open space, such is not the case in more crowded areas like the Hudson Valley and Long Island. For example, in the Long Island Pine Barrens - a sensitive ecosystem that protects clean drinking water for thousands of people - the threat of development is not simply an aesthetic one.

Conservationists have been in discussions with land owners in the Pine Barrens for years, in an effort to convince them not to sell out to another strip mall or subdivision. When Gov. Paterson threatened to suspend all habitat purchases earlier this year, the threat of defunding the open space line of the EPF nearly derailed negotiations and put the public's well being at risk.

Your criticism about very modest open space funding would be better directed at the cynical political process that gutted the Environmental Protection Fund in its entirety. By hiding a massive EPF cut in the bill that reopened state parks, Albany legislators slipped in a "poison pill" that truly shortchanged New York's treasured natural heritage.

We encourage Daily Enterprise readers who hunt, fish and otherwise enjoy the area's natural splendors to find out how their Albany representatives voted on environmental funding this year - and keep that information in mind when they go to vote next fall.Marcia Bystryn, president

New York League of Conservation Voters

via: Adirondack Daily Enterprise

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