Will DEC budget cuts actually worsen our huge state deficit?

If the phrase “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” ever applied to a situation, it certainly should be applicable to what’s occurring in our “buried-in-red-ink” State of New York right now. It’s unfortunate that it took the closing of Rogers Center (among others) to awaken many of us to just how far our state government is willing to go in its desperate attempt to repair the overspending and irresponsible fiscal policies and decisions that have basically bankrupted our state and negatively impacted so many of its residents.

Last week, I reported the glaring imbalance that saw the NYSDEC being hit with a disproportionate percentage of budget cut actions as compared to cuts that would affect those of other state departments. Hit especially hard were those in the fish, wildlife and marine resources. For example, 75 percent of DEC budget comes from other sources of funding distinct from the General Fund, primarily being from the Conservation Fund, a supposedly dedicated fund fed by sporting license sales and special sales taxes on certain sporting goods.  And while only 2 percent of the State General Fund employees work at DEC, the DEC is being hammered by 16 percent of the state's layoffs, so far, with probably more to come.

It should be noted that the layoffs, freezes and cuts, including those funded by the Conservation Fund, are reportedly being determined and carried out by the Division of Budget. Interestingly, section of New York State law that established the Conservation Fund proscribes the government from appropriating the dollars for given purposes and then freezing those dollars as the (Executive) Div. of the Budget [DOB] has recently done. It is a potential disaster for New York’s outdoors and all conservation in general if this glaring breech of state law is allowed without opposition. Such a breech might also cost the state many thousands of federal dollars that are annually determined primarily by the amounts flowing into the NYS Conservation Fund and whether those funds are being used as prescribed by the law to qualify for the funding. At a time when the State should be bolstering the DEC, which is facing major challenges regarding a developing moratorium on natural gas drilling and mining, in addition to the many conservation management programs under its charge, instead we see it being gutted by layoffs, closings, early retirements and declining morale due to uncertainly. If it was a hospital patient, the DEC would likely now be on life support, and probably has been for several years now. The question is: will it or can it ever recover? If recent actions in Albany are any indication, the answer is no.

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