MA Green Budget
A summary of items in MA legislative conference committee which 41 environmental and conservation organizations deem important to support.
Conference Committee Letter
June 2, 2011
Chairman Stephen Brewer and Chairman Brian Dempsey
State House, Room 212 and Room 243
Boston, MA 02133
RE: Green Budget Recommendations for the FY2012 Budget Conference Committee
Dear Chairman Brewer and Chairman Dempsey:
The 41 undersigned environmental and conservation organizations are writing to urge your support of funding for critical environmental programs as you finalize the FY ’12 operating budget. As you know, in years past environmental programs bore disproportionate cuts and never fully recovered, particularly when you factor in inflation. While state spending continues to increase overall, the environmental budget continues to shrink and both the House and Senate proposed budgets devote considerably less than 1 cent of every dollar for critical programs that protect the environment and public health. In addition, we know that it is critical that we maintain our natural assets if we want to retain and attract new businesses and jobs to the Commonwealth.
Support Department of Environmental Protection at the funding level in the Senate budget -- $24,890,767
The funding level for DEP’s core account in the Senate budget will translate into the elimination of 70 staff positions while the House figure will result in 100 staff lay-offs. Given that DEP has already seen its staff cut by almost a third (from 1210 staff in FY ’02 to 840 FTEs today), these additional cuts will have severe impacts on DEP’s ability to permit at the speed of business while at the same time ensuring that our air, water and land are free from pollution. We urge you to support the higher funding level so that DEP can continue to function.
Support State and Urban Parks at the funding level in the Senate budget -- $42,173,702
Our state forests and parks are a real draw for visitors both in and outside of Massachusetts -- and support a $14 billion tourism industry. However, we continue to shortchange these amazing resources. This year DCR will again be forced to close a number of parks, campgrounds will go unstaffed, and the pool season will be shortened. These are resources that moderate and low income families rely on.
Support the Licensed Site Professionals (LSP) Board at the funding level in the House budget -- $345,475
While the difference between the House and Senate funding levels is not large, given that the LSP Board has seen its staff cut in half, every additional dollar will help the board do its critical work of overseeing the Licensed Site Professionals that are responsible for cleaning up hazardous waste sites.
Support the Department of Fish and Games Office of the Commissioner at the funding level in theHouse budget -- $658,880
The Commissioner’s Office supports DFG’s four principal divisions: The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, the Division of Marine Fisheries, the Office of Fishing and Boating Access, and the Division of Ecological Restoration. Since FY 2009, this line-item has been cut by close to 20%.
Support the Department of Agricultural Resources main account at the funding level in the Housebudget--$4,400,108
Agriculture is an important contributor to the Commonwealth’s economy with farming generating $2.6 billion in direct and indirect sales statewide. DAR works with the agricultural community to protect farmland and increase farm viability. Farms in turn provide a fresh, local food supply and local agriculture employs more than 14,000 people throughout the state. This line-item has been cut by 11% since FY 2008.
Support the DCR Retained Revenue language included in the Senate budget
This line-item allows DCR to retain $5.3 million from revenues it raises. In any given year the agency raises between $8-10 million from visitors who pay admission and camping fees. The Senate language would allow the agency, subject to appropriation in a supplemental budget, to retain and deposit into the Conservation Trust 70% of any revenues the agency collects over $9 million. This provides DCR with a performance-based incentive for funding upkeep and improvements to the parks and recreation system and personnel costs of seasonal employees. Inclusion of this language will not change the budget’s bottom line.
Support the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) Trust Waiver.
We thank both branches for reinstating the line item for the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program at $150,000. However, due to federal funding cuts and less revenue generated from fees, we also urge you to include language from the Senate budget that codifies a permanent waiver of indirect costs for the Trust. In 2006 the NHES Fund was authorized with a “permanent” waiver from indirect cost rate charges assessed by the comptroller. Although the legislature passed a law granting a “permanent waiver”, because of an ambiguity in language the waiver has to be requested by the Department of Fish & Game (DFG) and granted, or not granted, by Administration & Finance (A&F) on an annual basis. Although ANF has traditionally approved the waiver, we cannot be certain going forward that this will continue. If the legislature does not make the waiver truly permanent, the Trust – which operates on permit fees, federal aid, bond grants and donations – will continue to be subject to a 36.65% overhead charge. An assessment of this administrative overhead charge on the Fund greatly limits the direct benefits of voluntary contributions made toward Heritage, and acts as a deterrent to donors.
Thank you for your consideration. We urge you not to shortchange public health and natural resource protection.
American Farmland Trust
Appalachian Mountain Club
Association to Preserve Cape Cod
Berkshire Environmental Action Team
Berkshire Natural Resources Council
Boston Harbor Island Alliance
Charles River Conservancy
Charles River Watershed Association
Conservation Law Foundation
Emerald Necklace Conservancy
Environmental League of Massachusetts
Essex County Greenbelt Association
Essex County Trail Association
Franklin Land Trust
Friends of the Blue Hills
Hilltown Anti-Herbicide Coalition
Lakes and Ponds Association of Western Mass
Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions
Massachusetts Association of Health Boards
Massachusetts Climate Action Network
Massachusetts Energy Consumers Alliance
Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition
Massachusetts League of Environmental Voters
Massachusetts Organization of State Engineers and Scientists (MOSES)
Massachusetts Rivers Alliance
The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts
Nashua River Watershed Association
Neponset River Watershed Association
New England Wild Flower Society
North and South Rivers Watershed Association
Organization for the Assabet River
Sheffield Land Trust
Sierra Club Massachusetts Chapter
Sudbury Valley Trustees
Taunton River Watershed Alliance
The Trustees of Reservations
Trust for Public Land