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Destler Dodge

Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered this year’s budget just three short hours after the due date, making it the fifth year in a row the governor has passed the budget more or less on time, reported The New York Times. Compared to the 2010 budget that came in 110 days after the April 1 deadline, this is quite an accomplishment. As Cuomo celebrates another timely budget, however, others question Cuomo’s priorities.

Responses to the budget from leaders across New York state were compiled in an article from auburnpub.com. Peter Iwanowicz, director of the Environmental Advocates of New York, recognized many components of the budget that will improve New York’s environment. However he also used strong language in expressing his overall discontent. “Regrettably, Governor Cuomo and legislators also agreed to two terrible policies, a raid of the state’s only climate action program and yet another delay of the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act of 2006 (DERA).” Iwanowicz cited the raid of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) as being “especially egregious.”

The raid takes $41 million from RGGI, the only climate action program in New York, the majority of which will go to the state’s general fund. Meanwhile, the DERA is being postponed again, despite its ability to reduce carbon emissions, protect those with asthma and create business for vehicle manufacturers in upstate New York — all of which are arguments made in favor of the act by Iwanowicz.

Of course, not every concerned party can be happy when a budget is passed. Money must be prioritized, and someone is bound to be left out, but this prioritization says a lot about the culture in New York state. Despite the mountain of evidence that greenhouse gas emissions are making drastic impacts on the Earth, a climate march last year in which 400,000 people demanded change and threats of frequent flooding in New York City, the issue of environmental conservation is still not a priority for legislators in New York state. 

Considering that the members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recently set the symbolic Doomsday Clock to three minutes to midnight — due largely to climate change — organizations such as the RGGI should be receiving more money than ever, not suffering from budget cuts. Although many budgetary decisions were made to improve the environment in New York, it appears to not be enough. By approving the raid on the RGGI as well as the postponement of the DERA, Cuomo is setting a dangerous precedent for years to come.