Calling him “a tremendous advocate for the environment,” Assemblyman Steve Otis (D-Rye) praised Governor Cuomo for his plans to substantially increase funding for statewide environmental initiatives in this year’s budget, including a $100 million increase to the clean water grant program that Otis helped initiate in 2015. The Governor also announced his intention to nearly double the budget for the Environmental Protection Fund (“EPF”), from its current $177 million to $300 million.
In supporting the Governor’s initiatives, Assemblyman Otis stated: “With his budget proposals for the water grant program and the EPF, the Governor is making a substantial commitment to programs that will clean the environment, create jobs and protect public health.”
The clean water program, the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2015, was created and approved as part of the 2015-16 state budget to assist municipalities in undertaking costly water quality improvement projects, such as the replacement of aging sewer and clean water pipes. Bolstering this grant program is particularly important to Assemblyman Otis, who developed the initiative last year along with his colleague, Assemblyman John McDonald (D-Cohoes), because local governments could not afford to fund these projects relying entirely on the property taxpayer.
The program originally provided for $200 million in grants over the next three years. Applications for the first $50 million, which were submitted in September, garnered requests for over $800 million in proposed infrastructure improvement projects.
“The tremendous initial response to this program underscores the enormous statewide need for funding assistance to help municipalities with these urgent, but costly infrastructure improvements,” said Otis.
Noting that many water quality projects are actually mandated by the federal Clean Water Act, Otis, himself a former mayor, observed: “Local governments simply cannot afford to borrow the millions necessary to complete these projects, nor can they finance them through property taxes alone. By making this initiative a signature proposal of his Executive Budget, Governor Cuomo has pledged to help our local communities undertake the kinds of water quality investments that will benefit New Yorkers for generations to come.”
The EPF, established in 1993, is the primary source of state funding for capital projects supporting a wide variety of environmental programs that include the purchase of open space and parkland, restoration of natural habitats, water quality and historic preservation projects.