House Ways and Means Budget Increases Funding for Environmental Protection
The House budget released yesterday helps restore funding for the critical work of our environmental agencies, building on the Governor’s budget released in January. The members of the Green Budget Coalition want to thank House leadership and particularly Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz, Vice Chair Denise Garlick, and Assistant Vice Chair Liz Malia for their commitment to protecting and prioritizing our environment.
“We appreciate the strategic investments in our environmental agencies by Chair Michlewitz in his first budget,” said Elizabeth Henry, President of the Environmental League of Massachusetts. “As mentioned in his Chairman’s letter, the connection between our environmental agencies’ work to protect public health and climate resiliency has never been more important to the Commonwealth.”
The Green Budget Coalition has long fought to increase the share of the budget that supports protection of our natural resources and public health. This year the coalition prioritized four line-items that have an oversized impact on the Commonwealth:
- The Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR) – State Parks & Recreation: The House increased this line-item to $44.7M, a significant increase over the $40.25M in FY19. Budget cuts over the past years have resulted in many parks without staff. This much needed increase means that more of our parks will be staffed which contributes to park safety and stewardship. Additional staff also is needed to plan and engineer new facilities and park improvements. “The Department of Conservation and Recreation manages the largest base of public lands and waters in the commonwealth for the benefit of millions of residents and visitors,” said John Judge, President and CEO of the Appalachian Mountain Club. “State parks are a critical component of Massachusetts’s annual $16.2 billion recreation economy. It’s encouraging to see the House Ways and Means Committee recognize the need to restore support for DCR’s stewardship mission.”
- Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) – Administration: The House maintained the level in the Governor’s budget which reflected our Green Budget recommendation of $31.5M, $2.4M over FY19. DEP lost more than 100 employees during the Early Retirement Incentive Program in 2015 on top of other staff reductions due to budget cuts. This increase will help DEP increase staffing levels for a variety of programs including in wetlands and waterways, climate and transportation, and the emergency response and hazardous waste site cleanup program as well as DEP’s important compliance and enforcement efforts.
- DCR Watershed Program: The House met our recommendation of $1.5M, an increase of $400K over FY19. This funding will enable the DCR Office of Water Resources conduct crucial work including technical assistance to municipalities around the National Flood Insurance Program, and research, along with drought and flood mapping, that is critical to the implementing the state’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program and the Commonwealth’s Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan.
- Dept. of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration (DER): The House increased above our recommendation to $1.85M, a jump of nearly $600K over FY19. This increase will allow DER to conduct and assist on additional restoration projects, including dam removals, culvert replacements, and wetland restoration.
“We are grateful to Chairman Michlewitz and the House Ways and Means Committee for electing to increase funding for our state environmental agencies, in particular those tasked with protecting and improving our waterways. These funding increases would allow these agencies to refill critical staffing positions to ensure our water resources are sufficiently protected,” said Gabby Queenan, Policy Director, Massachusetts Rivers Alliance.
“The House Committee on Ways and Means budget proposal to increase funding for our state environmental agencies is an important step in providing resources needed to protect our environment, restore our ecosystems, steward our conservation lands, and adapt to climate change,” said Emily Myron, government relations specialist for The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts. “We applaud Speaker DeLeo, Chair Michlewitz and House Ways and Means committee members for their leadership.”