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New York’s $3 Billion Environmental Bond Delayed by Coronavirus

July 30, 2020, 5:54 PM

New York state will postpone plans to place a $3 billion environmental bond on the ballot in November, citing a dire financial situation stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was my proposal. I believe deeply in it, but we need to have financial stability before we do that,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Thursday on a conference call with members of the media.

Cuomo (D) proposed the bond act in January as part of the state’s budget process. The state’s $177 billion budget, passed in April allowed the bond act question to be placed on the Nov. 3 ballot.

The bond, if approved by voters, would have allocated funding for a number of projects, including habitat restoration, flood reduction, environmental justice communities, preservation efforts, renewable energy expansion, and water quality improvements.

$14 Billion Deficit

New York state is now facing a nearly $14 billion budget deficit for the current fiscal year, which began April 1, as a result of the public health crisis.

“The financial situation now is unstable, as everyone knows,” Cuomo said. “We’re waiting to see what the federal government provides in aid. We’re waiting to see what happens with the economy. We’re waiting to see when the revenues come back to the state and that economic engine really starts turning.”

Cuomo said he hopes the measure can be added to the ballot next year.

“I don’t think it would be financially prudent to do it at this time,” he said.

Economic Opportunity

The bond would have been used for a number of environmental projects throughout the state, including environmental justice, and restoring freshwater wetlands.

It also could be used to connect streams and waterways, right-size culverts and dams, reclaim natural floodplains, restock shellfish populations, preserve open space, conserve more forest lands and replant trees, expand renewable energy, and reduce contamination from agricultural and storm water runoff, according to legislative language.

Environmental advocates were crestfallen over the announced delay and said the bond act would have helped the state’s economy.

“When the coronavirus lets up, the climate crisis will still be here,” Julie Tighe, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters said in a statement.

Environmental Advocates NY Executive Director Peter Iwanowicz called the move “shortsighted,” saying it would have provided a “desperately needed” boost to the crumbling water infrastructure, as well as helping the economy.

“As New York navigates the recovery to the pandemic, it must ensure New Yorkers have clean water” as well as clean air, he said in an emailed statement. “This is not a good start.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Keshia Clukey in Albany, N.Y. at kclukey@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergindustry.com; Rebecca Baker at rbaker@bloombergindustry.com

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