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Hochul’s budget for the environment is the biggest yet, but advocates push for more

Mike Groll
Office of New York Governor Kathy Hochul
Governor Kathy Hochul presents the Fiscal Year 2023 Executive Budget in the Red Room at the State Capitol.

Last week, Governor Kathy Hochul announced a $216 billion executive budget for New York’s 2023 fiscal year, detailing significant investment in fighting climate. Some environmental advocates support Hochul’s budget because billions of dollars devoted to fighting climate change are a key focus in the future of the state. Other advocates and state legislators believe $15 billion more is needed.

Among the proposals is a $4 billion “Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Bond Act.” The environmental bond fund is aimed at helping revive environmental habitats, reduce flood risks, conserve open spaces, protect water resources and invest in pollution mitigation.

“We’re very excited for the bond act,” said Julie Tighe, president for the New York League of Conservation Voters. “It is by far the largest Environmental Bond Act we’ve had here in the state of New York, and the last time we had a bond act was in 1996. So it's about time to be making these major investments in the environment and fighting climate change.”

Tighe said the 1996 bond act budgeted just over $1.75 billion. Hochul’s budget includes:

  • $4 billion Environmental Bond Act
  • $500 million investment in ports, manufacturing, and supply chain infrastructure for offshore wind
  • $500 million for water infrastructure
  • $400 million for the annual environmental protection fund, which is a $100 million increase
  • $200 million for state parks

“We want to make sure that people know that making the move to a green economy; isn't just good for the environment; isn’t just good for fighting climate change, isn’t just good for our communities, but it's also good for our pocketbooks and for making sure people have good green jobs,” Tighe said.
However, New York Renews, a coalition of over 100 environmental and clean energy groups, believes $15 billion is necessary to commit to climate justice.

“There is a clear way to a healthy and sustainable future,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, the executive director at ALIGN, a group that focuses on building equity in environmental justice. “We believe the $15 billion is the start for this year’s budget, and it will move us towards a renewable energy economy. It will allow for resilient infrastructure and for the creation of thousands of career jobs in the green economy.”

State Assembly member Jo Ann Simon of Brooklyn Heights said Hochul’s proposed budget doesn’t invest enough in climate justice, emission reduction and green job creation. That’s despite $500 million planned for developing offshore wind in waters near the south shore of Long Island and in port infrastructure to manufacture wind turbines in Brooklyn and Albany.

“The governor's proposal includes investment in climate that hasn’t been done previously, but it's not enough and it doesn’t give us the cushion or the reservoir of resources that we’re going to need to make a difference,” Simon said.

Hochul’s proposal also includes several policy changes that could impact how money is spent.

She wants the state to have 100% electric school buses by 2035, with all new purchases required to be electric starting in 2027, as well as support for zero-emission bus infrastructure, including charging stations, and purchasing or leasing electric buses. The budget would also set the goal of electrifying the state fleet with zero-emission vehicles over the next decade.

Hochul advances producer responsibility legislation for paper and packaging products, and restricts PFAS chemicals and other toxic substances in packaging.

She also supports the extension of the Second Avenue subway, support for East Side Access and the LIRR’s Third Track, and other MTA projects to allow more New Yorkers to get around without cars.

Clare is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.