By Cherie Ching, Advocacy Fellow
This entry prepared by our advocacy partners at the Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM)
It seems that the recent winter extravaganza in Boston was not enough proof for legislators to refocus state funding towards climate change and other efforts to alter our impact on the environment. The recent designation of a meager 0.6% ($221M) for environmental agencies was passed in the Legislature this week and is up for Governor Baker’s approval. This update is not encouraging for the members and advocates of our green communities, as this amount does not even reach 1% of the total approved $38.1B budget (H 3650) for the 2016 Fiscal year. In fact, this should be a concern for all, considering the fact that less improvement in protecting the environment will prove grave consequences for all.
The USGBC MA Chapter, along with more than 65 organizations throughout Massachusetts, joined forces with Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM) which has led the call for a return to “1% for the Environment,” a level of investment the state has not made in several years, but one to which Governor Baker has committed for his first term. This “Green Budget” calls for funding restorations to programs that have been disproportionately cut over the years and have yet to return to their pre-recession levels.
ELM Legislative Director, Erica Mattison goes on to explain the importance of maintaining a higher standard for the Green Budget to ensure the sustainability of our communities and the environment in which we live in. She highlights the right we have to a clean environment, guaranteed to us in the Massachusetts Constitution, and the ability to achieve that through a supporting state budget. Mattison continues:
“Restoring funding to these agencies will help ensure that our water bodies are healthy, fishable, and swimmable; our state parks and beaches are open, staffed, and well-maintained; and we’re resilient to a changing climate. What’s at stake here is safeguarding public health and protecting the interests of future generations, as well as maintaining our quality of life and strengthening our economy.”
Environmental highlights of the budget include:
· Funding for a State Climatologist ($200k)
· A doubling of funding for Department of Conservation and Recreation Stormwater Management (to bring it to over $800k)
· A $2M increase for DCR State Parks & Recreation
· A $2M increase for DCR Retained Revenue to enable the agency to retain up to $16M of the funds it generates
· $10M from the state’s surplus will be transferred to the Massachusetts Community Preservation Trust Fund.
Lowlights include substantial reductions for:
· Climate adaptation planning (Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs)
· Office of Dam Safety (Department of Conservation and Recreation)