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Gov. Cuomo postpones planned environmental bond act

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, seen in an undated

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, seen in an undated photo, launches campaign to pass the $3 billion "Restore Mother Nature" Bond Act. Credit: Office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo / Don Pollard

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday postponed a $3 billion bond act planned to improve drinking water quality and other environmental protections on Long Island and statewide.

“We’re going to postpone the environmental bond issue for one year,” Cuomo said. “The financial situation right now is unstable … Hopefully we will do it next year, it was my proposal and I believe deeply in it, but we need financial stability before we do that."

Cuomo has said the state faces a $13 billion deficit because of costs from the coronavirus, including declining state and local government tax revenues and increasing unemployment benefit costs. Cuomo has lobbied for billions more in stimulus aid from Congress, but the chances of that are uncertain.

“Washington's failure to help states just sunk a $3 billion Environmental Bond Act in New York,” said State Senate Environmental Conservation Committee chairman Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach). “This will have long-term consequences for combating climate change, increasing our storm resiliency and creating jobs. There is just no excuse for this and it is shameful."

The Restore Mother Nature Bond Act Cuomo proposed in January would have created new artificial reefs in the Long Island Sound, among other projects. The bond act was scheduled to go before voters in the November election.

The environmental borrowing act would bolster flood protection, purchase and preserve open space, create four more artificial reefs in Long Island Sound and in the Atlantic Ocean, and expand renewable energy such as wind power. The measure would also create a “conservation corridors program” to restore habitats for fish and wildlife in an effort to boost sport fishing tourism and commercial fishing.

A proposed Long Island Shellfish Restoration Initiative would restock the Great South Bay with nearly 200 million shellfish. Cuomo also proposes expanding freshwater fishing through stocking of popular sport fish and construction of more boat launches to lure tourism dollars.

"This bond act would have addressed time-sensitive challenges all New Yorkers face in connection with climate change, the need for safe drinking water and growing threats to biodiversity," said Paul Gallay of the environmental group Riverkeeper. "The sooner the state starts the projects that would have been funded by the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act, the better prepared New York will be to meet difficult times ahead. The question is not, ‘can we afford to spend this money?’ it is, ‘can we afford not to do so?’ "

Bond acts traditionally provide state government with capital for a wide variety of uses without tapping the state budget.

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