For too long, New York's Environmental Protection Fund -- a primary resource for preserving our environment -- served as a piggy bank for bean counters in the governor's budget office. When they needed some spare change to balance the budget, they swooped in and swept -- pronounced swiped -- what they needed from the EPF.
So far, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has admirably refrained from raiding it. Now, he has a chance to go even further and begin to repair the damage done by previous budgetary larceny, simply by signing one bill.
The legislation, sponsored by Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), focuses on the unclaimed nickel deposits collected through the bottle bill. The legislation would gradually take some of that money and move it out of the general budget and into the EPF. This would not be painless for Cuomo to advocate in a tough economic time, when he is doing all he can to balance the budget. But the bill does phase in the amounts, starting with $10 million in 2013-14. So it's not a huge budget hit in any one year.
The fund pays for clean-water projects, recycling, land preservation and other initiatives important to our region and the state. Its main revenue source will still be the real-estate transfer tax. But those bottle-bill nickels will help restore some of the fund's lost strength.
Signing this bill would help the governor to shine up his green credentials. More than that, it's simply the right thing to do.