The largest environmental bond act in NY history is on the ballot Nov. 8

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What would the bond act fund, precisely?

 

The money falls into four core categories: more than a billion for climate change mitigation, another one billion for restoration and flood risk reduction, at least $650 million for water quality and resilient infrastructure and another $650 million for open space conservation and recreation. This encompasses a spate of pressing state needs, such as projects to address sea-level rise and storm surge; upgrading roads, bridges and sewers; renewable energy infrastructure; reducing air and water pollution; and green building projects.

“New York stands on the brink of a historic opportunity,” said Julie Tighe, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “[The bond act] would protect our water and air, shore up our infrastructure, and improve the quality of life in every part of the state—all while supporting thousands of good-paying jobs and investing in disadvantaged communities.”

The act requires that at least 35% of the funds directly benefit environmental justice communities. An additional $500 million would go toward helping the state’s public schools swap out roughly 50,000 gas-guzzling school buses with electric models by 2035. 

 

What are the economic benefits of the bond act?

 

A report by infrastructure consulting giant AECOM and Rebuild By Design, a nonprofit that advocates for resilient investments, estimated that the bond act would support the creation of at least 38,000 jobs. When leveraged funding is factored in, the report projects that the ballot initiative would ultimately support $8.71 billion in spending in the state and create 84,000 jobs.

Anne deBoer, manager of sustainable economics at AECOM, said the bond act presents an opportunity for voters to “make investments in protecting the environment that will simultaneously benefit the economy.”

 

Wait—wasn’t there a 2020 environmental bond act?

 

Yes and no. This year’s bond act is a renamed and expanded version of the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act of 2020. Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo put forward the $3 billion effort in his executive budget proposal in 2020, and the state Legislature approved the measure during the annual budget process.

New Yorkers were set to vote on the issue in November 2020—but then came the pandemic. Cuomo withdrew the bond act, saying he did not think it would be “financially prudent” to approve the measure as the state grappled with the economic upheaval of the pandemic. Legislation for the act was revived in 2021, and then this year with additional funding.

 

How likely are voters to approve the bond act?

 

If history is anything to go by, very likely. New York voters have approved 10 of the 11 environmental bond acts placed on the ballot. A lone ballot measure failed in 1990, and another proposal made it through the budget process in 2014 but did not go to a ballot vote because of another Cuomo-backed ballot measure, the Rockefeller Institute of Government said.



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