ALBANY – New Yorkers will vote in November 2022 on a public referendum on a massive environmental bond act that would fund sewer construction and improve water quality statewide, while combating global warming for decades to come.
If approved by voters, the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act would authorize borrowing of $3 billion to speed long-delayed local projects, including replacement of water towers and sewer projects that could be too expensive for local governments.
Authorization of the referendum was included in the $212.2 billion state budget adopted this week.
The bond act would “make a material difference in people’s lives,” said State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), chairman of the Environmental Conservation Committee.
“It will also be an important way to fight climate change,” Kaminsky said in an interview.
Backers said the borrowing would spur creation of 65,000 construction jobs and permanent positions.
“The reality is the economy and the environment are bound together,” said Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket), who chairs the Environmental Conservation Committee.
Englebright said Long Island would be bolstered against flooding and coastal storms that in recent years also have affected the interior of the state, as a consequence of extreme weather from global warming.
“I think it’s good for Long Island, but also for Elmira and other parts of our state,” Englebright said.
The specific projects funded by the bond act have not been determined.
But the borrowing would provide at least $1 billion to protect areas on Long Island and in New York City against flooding.
More than $550 million would go to protect water resources and improve drinking water quality.
In addition, up to $700 million would be invested in green energy facilities and pipelines, while as much as $550 million would be used to preserve open space across the state.
Also, at least 35% of funding in all spending areas would be devoted to environmental justice initiatives, including improvement of the environment and public health in low-income neighborhoods.
The bond act was supported 71%-20% in a Siena College Research Institute poll in January 2020. That included majority support across political parties as well as liberals and conservatives.
“People support environmental issues and the kinds of things that New York State does with the bond acts,” said Steven Greenberg of the Siena poll. “It deals with fixing sewers, landfills and protecting streams. They like it and they don’t see, with bond acts generally, that it’s going to hurt them financially, that it will have a direct impact on their taxes.”
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