New York environmental bond removed from the November ballot, with governor citing an unstable financial situation

On July 30, 2020, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced that a $3.00 billion bond measure related to environmental projects was removed from the general election ballot.

In April 2020, as part of the state budget bill, the New York State Legislature passed a provision for the bond measure. Gov. Cuomo proposed the bond issue, titled the “Environmental Bond Act of 2020 Restore Mother Nature,” during his State of the State Address on January 8, 2020. The budget bill also included a provision empowering the New York Director of the Budget to remove the bond measure from the ballot should the budget department decide that there would be an adverse effect on the state’s finances.

Revenue from the bond issue would have been distributed to flood risk reduction, coastal rehabilitation, shoreline restoration, and ecological restoration projects; projects designed to mitigate the impacts of climate change; land conservation and recreation plans; and wastewater infrastructure. The ballot measure would have required that the department make every effort practicable to ensure that 35% of the bond revenue was used to benefit environmental justice communities (EJCs). The ballot measure would have defined EJCs as “minority or low-income [communities] that may bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state, local, and tribal programs and policies.”

Bill Ulfelder, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in New York, responded to the news, saying, “While it is clear that the pandemic has had a serious impact on the economy of our state and the nation, this measure was an opportunity to create jobs and conserve the clean water, clean air, and natural resources our children and grandchildren depend on.”

With the removal of the bond measure from the ballot for November 3, 2020, there will be no statewide ballot measures in New York in 2020. “The financial situation is unstable. I don’t think it would be financially prudent to do it at this time,” said Gov. Cuomo. He said that he hoped voters would decide the bond measure in the future: “We’re going to postpone the environmental bond issue hopefully one year to next.” The New York State Legislature would need to pass the bond measure again. Gov. Cuomo also cited the proposed HEALS Act in the U.S. Senate, stating that some of the provisions regarding where people are taxed would “have a very negative effect on New York City.”

Additional reading: