New York puts $4.2 billion environmental bond law on midterm vote

The proposal, the first in 26 years, aims to channel benefits to the communities most affected by the climate crisis

New Yorkers heading to the polls this month have the opportunity to vote on a voting measure that will fund up to $4.2 billion for environmental improvement projects - including increasing flood resilience, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, electrifying school buses and creating more green and open space.

The proposal also aims to reach the communities most affected by the climate crisis. If approved, it would allow the state to sell bonds to raise funds to finance several projects.

Read more about the bonding action and what it entails below.

What's in the environmental bonding law?

The measure – officially named the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act – has gone through several iterations. A similar measure, proposed by former governor Andrew Cuomo, was approved in 2020, but postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hochul reintroduced the bond law last year. It defines several project categories and sets a funding limit for each:

Climate change mitigation: Up to $1.5 billion for projects including reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from state-owned property and agricultural land, reducing air and water pollution in environmental justice communities, and addressing the effects of extreme heat in cities with measures such as improvement of green spaces and community cooling centers. The law also stipulates that at least $500 million will be used for electric school buses.

Flood risk reduction and waterway restoration: At least $1.1 billion to address flood-prone roads, property and infrastructure, and fund projects including coastal, wetlands and river restoration.

Water quality and infrastructure improvements: At least $650 million to improve water infrastructure and projects such as reducing chemical runoff from livestock, improving wastewater systems, and improving municipal rainwater management.

Conservation of open spaces: Up to $650 million for projects such as conserving farmland and open spaces for recreation and improving parks, campgrounds, and fish hatcheries.

Unallocated: $300m

Like New York's ambitious Climate Act, passed in 2019, environmental bonding laws require 35% of total spending to benefit disadvantaged communities, also known as the environmental justice community. The definition was established by the state's Climate Justice Working Group, and takes into account factors including socioeconomic criteria as well as exposure to environmental hazards including pollution, flooding, and the urban heat island effect.

The bond action signifies New York's commitment to responding to and mitigating the impacts of the climate crisis, at a time when climate action at the local, state and federal levels is urgently needed. This follows a historic passage from the Inflation Reduction Act, but also a mixed year in environmental progress in New York state: when the state budget was passed, green energy advocates were disappointed that final negotiations removed Hochul's proposal to ban gas and oil connections in buildings. , and environmental justice groups say funds to address environmental inequalities, including childhood lead poisoning, are far from what is needed.

Is that a tax?

Not. The move would allow New York state to sell bonds to raise funds, loans the state will repay over the next 30 years.

According to the state's financial watchdog office, if New York voters approve the measure, the state could start selling bonds to investors next year.

How significant is this?

The Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act was the first environmental bond bill to be presented to New York voters in 26 years.

Although according to some estimates, tens of billions of dollars are needed to improve New York state's environmental infrastructure, experts say the funding would be a step in the right direction.

“There really is a huge need for funding,” said Laura Rabinow, deputy director of research at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, a SUNY-based non-partisan public policy think tank.

Much of the work to be funded by the law is forward-looking, to prepare for and protect against the impacts of future climate crises. But it will also help the state catch up on critical infrastructure improvements such as replacing lead pipes and making long-needed upgrades to the sewer system.

"Many New Yorkers are still relying on the infrastructure that was built 100 years ago, so it's time for some upgrades," said Jessica Ottney Mahar, New York director of policy and strategy for the Nature Conservancy.

Ottney Mahar said the bond law would also allow New York to take advantage of federal laws such as the bipartisan Infrastructure Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, which require matching funding from state and local governments.

How likely is it to pass?

Since the early 20th century, 11 environmental bonding acts have made it to the ballot in New York. All but one, in 1990, passed with a substantial voting margin. Rabinow, who recently analyzed historic votes, said environmental bonding measures tended to be "widely supported by voters and by Democratic and Republican governors".

Polling data from September suggests that pattern may be true, with 55% of New York voters in favor of the bond action, including 24% of Republicans and 76% of Democrats.

"Climate change is a very important issue for voters, not only in New York or in the United States, but globally," Rabinow said. “I think the goal itself is a reflection of that consensus building.”

How do I vote?

Yes vote in favor of bond issuance. A voice did not oppose the action. New York voters should be careful about flipping their ballots – in which case the neighborhood bonding law will appear listed as “Proposal Number One”. Polling stations are open now through Sunday, November 6 for early voting – and on Tuesday, November 8 for election day. This article was written by EDUKASI CAMPUS.

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