(Reprinted from the Environmental League of Massachusetts newsletter.)

This week the Legislature approved a $38.1B budget (H 3650). Funding for environmental agencies amounted to $221M, thereby continuing to make up just 0.6% of the total.  ELM has led the call for a return to “1% for the Environment,” a level of investment the state has not made in several years, but one to which Governor Baker has committed for his first term. More than 65 organizations throughout Massachusetts support the Green Budget, which ELM publishes to make funding recommendations for environmental programs.  The Green Budget calls for funding restorations to programs that have been disproportionately cut over the years and have yet to return to their pre-recession levels.

“Restoring funding to these agencies will help ensure that our water bodies are healthy, fishable, and swimmable; our state parks and beaches are open, staffed, and well-maintained; and we’re resilient to a changing climate,” said ELM Legislative Director, Erica Mattison.  “What’s at stake here is safeguarding public health and protecting the interests of future generations, as well as maintaining our quality of life and strengthening our economy.  We thank the Conference Committee for its work on this budget and look forward to continued work with the public, the legislature, and the Baker-Polito administration to ensure adequate funding and staffing of state environmental programs.”

“The Massachusetts Constitution provides us with a right to a clean environment.  Our state budget is an important vehicle for delivering on that promise,” continued Mattison.

Environmental highlights of the budget include:

  • Funding for a State Climatologist ($200k)
  • A doubling of funding for DCR Stormwater Management (to bring it to over $800k)
  • A $2M increase for DCR State Parks & Recreation
  • A $2M increase for DCR Retained Revenue to enable the agency to retain up to $16M of the funds it generates
  • $10M from the state’s surplus will be transferred to the Massachusetts Community Preservation Trust Fund.

Lowlights include substantial reductions for:

  • Climate adaptation planning (Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs)
  • Office of Dam Safety (Department of Conservation and Recreation).

The budget now goes to Governor Baker for his approval.

Note: Comparisons are to the FY’15 budget (pre-9C cuts).  Environmental agencies included in this analysis are: Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Department of Fish & Game (DFG), Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), and Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR).