New York State is currently in the middle of its budget negotiations (read: battle) and Governor Cuomo has put forth his proposal. He has thirty days to make amendments and then the Senate and Assembly will put forth their versions. After the requisite back-and-forth, a final budget will be approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. The budget is supposed to be finished by April 1st.
As you probably know, CCE advocates for the New York State Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) every year. The EPF is an important piece of the New York State budget, but specifically, I would like to talk about the Ocean and Great Lakes line of the EPF. In 2005, the Ocean and Great Lakes line was added to the EPF and it is used by eight state agencies to advance important conservation and restoration projects along New York's beautiful coasts. Unfortunately, the Ocean and Great Lakes line has been stuck at $5 million dollars and there is so much work to be done. Now is the time to up that investment. Recently the New York State DEC released the draft Ocean Action Plan, a blueprint for protecting our ocean and estuaries. Additionally, implementation of the DEC's interim Great Lakes Action Agenda is underway and it identifies the most pressing problems facing the lakes, and provides specific goals and activities to address these problems. With these plans in place it is time to use them and really invest in our ocean and Great Lakes economies.
In 2010, ocean sector industries like fishing and tourism contributed more than $21.7 billion to New York’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and supported nearly 300,000 jobs. The largest ocean economy sector is tourism and recreation: in 2010, tourism and recreation contributed more than $16.5 billion to the state GDP and supported nearly 254,000 jobs. The Great Lakes also contribute significantly to the state’s economic well-being, supporting a sport fishery valued at more than $2.27 billion that generates nearly 12,000 jobs. In addition, Lakes Erie, Ontario and the St. Lawrence River provide the foundation for a multi‐million dollar tourism industry in the New York Seaway Trail region, serve as a key water resource for hydropower generation and manufacturing industries, and allow for recreational boating opportunities that contribute over $600 million a year to New York’s economy.
In order to implement important goals laid out in both of the Ocean Action plan and the Great Lakes Action Agenda, additional funding is needed in the Ocean and Great Lakes program. It's time for the Ocean and Great Lakes program to funded at $10 million and for the state to take these resources, and their contributions to the state economy, seriously.