The Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) was established to in 1993 to provide resources for capital projects that protect our shared environment and enhance communities. Unfortunately, designated funds for the EPF were raided several times during austere budget years to bolster the general fund. This bill creates a multi-year phased in plan to repay the funds that were removed from the EPF and enhance future appropriations.
Over $500 million in dedicated funding has been swept to the general fund over the life of the program without replacement, creating a huge backlog of EPF projects. The EPF relies on the Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) as a significant source of funding. The State has forecasted a consistent increase in annual RETT revenues to approximately $1.2 billion in fiscal year 2019-20 – an increase of more than $600 million since 2010-11. The EPF should receive an increased portion of its primary revenue stream now that the RETT is well on its way to robust levels.
The EPF has been able to fund projects that eradicate invasive species, protect our water, restore habitats, and much more. This program attracts businesses to our State and improves the quality of life for all New Yorkers. In the SFY 2016-2017 budget, the EPF was fully funded at $300 million; however, this program should be repaid to catch up with overdue projects.
This bill amends the New York State Environmental Conservation Law, the State Finance Law, and the Tax Law to provide for the repayment of funds previously swept from the EPF and prescribes a schedule for increased future deposits into the EPF from RETT revenues.