Supporters of the state's proposed $1.75 billion Clean Water-Clean Air Bond Act took their campaign for voter approval to government agencies and public receptions this week.
Members of the Western New York Committee for the Bond Act testified Tuesday at Common Council committee meetings as the full Council prepares to consider a supporting resolution. Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey Ross scheduled a news conference today before a reception for a newly organized environmental bond support group.
The bond act, which provides money for a range of environmental issues, will be state Proposition One on the Nov. 5 ballot. So far, it faces opposition by anti-spending forces, while endorsements have come from a growing list of business, environmental and elected officials from both major parties.
Gov. Pataki's proposal would provide funds for Great Lakes programs, redevelopment of abandoned urban industrial sites, landfill closings, park and historic preservation work, and clean water programs.
Opponents of the bond act -- including the Conservative Party and CHANGE-NY, an anti-tax lobbying group -- say the state shouldn't be borrowing money to clean up the environment or pay for a "grab-bag" of projects that could be changed after the act is approved.
Paying off the bonds, they point out, eventually will cost more than $1 billion in interest over the bond's lifetime.
"New York State should address vital environmental concerns on a pay-as-you-go basis," said Michael Long, Conservative Party state chairman. "We don't need to incur nearly $3 billion in debt."
Assembly Majority Leader Michael Bragman, D-Cicero, also has proposed a pay-as-you-go alternative bill that would add $113 million a year to the state's $94 million Environmental Protection Fund.
But an independent fiscal analysis released late last week by the New York City Independent Budget Office concluded that using bonds for major environmental projects is not more costly in the long term than a "pay-as-you-go" approach.
According to the study by the budget office -- established under the New York City charter to provide bipartisan analysis -- the pay-as-you-go proposal would provide no money for projects in fiscal year 1996-97, while the bond act would provide $275 million.
In the first five years, the act would commit at least $875 million while pay-as-you-go would provide less than $400 million, the analysts said. Supporters of the bond act pointed out that would make the state set priorities on projects and regions instead of tackling a wide range of needed projects at once.