Environmental Funding in New York State December 2014


Environmental Funding in New York State

December 2014

Executive Summary

Created in 1970, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

(DEC) is responsible for most of the State’s programs to protect wildlife, natural

resources and environmental quality. DEC programs range widely from managing

fish and game populations and overseeing the extraction of natural resources to

monitoring the discharge of pollutants and hazardous materials and cleaning up

contaminated sites.

These services are integral to New Yorkers’ public health and general well-being,

and to the State’s economy. As part of the Office of the State Comptroller’s

commitment to promoting transparency, accountability and sound fiscal

management in State government, this report examines DEC funding from State

Fiscal Year (SFY) 2003-04, the year that the Brownfield Cleanup Program was

enacted, to the end of SFY 2013-14.

The scope of the DEC’s mandate has expanded considerably since its inception, and

has continued to grow during the period examined in this report. Recent initiatives

from the Legislature, the Executive and federal agencies that require DEC action

have included development of a climate action plan, regulation of shale gas

production, addressing threats associated with crude oil transportation,

implementation of new federal clean air standards and management of varied

programs aimed at mitigating specific types of pollution.

As this report details, the number of DEC Full-Time Equivalent staff declined by more

than 300 from SFY 2003-04 through SFY 2013-14. All Funds spending rose 27.8

percent over that same period. When adjusted for inflation, spending was nearly flat,

with a cumulative increase of 1.7 percent over the period examined. According to

the Division of the Budget (DOB), DEC All Funds spending is projected to decline

over the next several years.

During the period examined in this report, State Funds spending by the DEC reached

a peak in SFY 2007-08, and as of SFY 2013-14 was down 15.1 percent from that

level. Federal dollars, including funding through the federal stimulus program,

bolstered the DEC’s budget substantially during the period, but federal support is

expected to decline to around its pre-stimulus level this fiscal year. The State’s

current Financial Plan projects that State Funds disbursements by the DEC will

decline in each of the next three fiscal years.

New York has created a number of dedicated funds for environmental purposes in

an effort to provide a reliable flow of resources to address long-term needs. At times,

however, the State has resorted to sweeps from certain of these funds to provide

budget relief, undermining the purpose of the dedicated funds.

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