EDITORIAL: Let voters decide on bond act

New Yorkers should be trusted to decide for themselves whether they want to spend money to preserve environment
Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

We understand Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s reasoning behind his decision to withdraw a proposed $3 billion environmental bond act from the November general election ballot.

The coronavirus crisis has devastated state finances, threatened municipal and school budgets, and put many individuals and families in precarious financial positions due to job loss and cutbacks.

Spending $3 billion over 10 years on projects to improve and preserve our parks, waterways and woodlands does seem like a luxury we can ill afford right now, especially with the state facing a potential $14 billion budget deficit next year.

None of that is a secret. New Yorkers are well aware of all of that. So why not leave the bond proposition on the ballot and let New Yorkers decide for themselves whether it’s important enough for them to spend their tax money on?

Does the governor have to make every decision for us?

The bond act funding would do more than just protect birches and butterflies.  It also would help taxpayers in rural areas and boosted area economies.

For instance, according to the Adirondack Council, the bond act would help reduced local taxes by lifting the financial burden of new wastewater treatment plants and water filtration plants, while creating jobs in construction, maintenance and engineering.

Construction of such projects could invite new economic development to struggling areas. Investment in clean energy systems and energy conservation could help create jobs, while promoting energy conservation and a cleaner environment.

Opponents of the measure say many of the investments from the bond act are targeted for the long-term such as preserving open space and combating climate change. And while they said it’s important to repair hiking trails, upgrade culverts and add boat launches, the state’s financial position — even before covid — made those expenditures discretionary given the state’s many other needs.

Both sides make valid arguments. So why not allow them to make their cases to the public and allow voters to decide for themselves what they want? 

If the initiative passes in November, state lawmakers will have to prioritize expenses to make the bond payments.

If it fails, then no harm, since pulling the bond act from the ballot kills it for at least a year anyway. Supporters can go back to the Legislature and lobby for a new bond act when financial conditions improve, perhaps as early as next year.

The coronavirus has deprived us all of so many choices. Why not trust the voters with this important decision?

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