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What’s in the Governor’s Budget for Your Parks, Forests, & Trails?

CT Capitol Building in the Winter

On February 8th, Governor Malloy released a Budget for FY 2018-19, a 2-year period starting on July 1, 2017. The General Assembly will now hold public hearings and propose additions and subtractions to the Governor’s Budget, and eventually a final budget for FY 2018-19 will be adopted.

The Governor’s Budget proposes the following:

Bad News

  • Continues current year’s Cuts at DEEP into FY 2018-19 – cuts this year resulted in reducing the seasonal workforce by 45%, closing three campgrounds, and reducing hours and services at various Park and Forest facilities. This means that, for the next 2 years, reduced services at State Parks, campgrounds, and other facilities are assured, UNLESS the Governor and General Assembly allow the creation of NEW revenue sources;  
  • Doesn’t fill vacancies as State Park and other environmental program staff retire or leave the agency. In this current year, there were over 35 vacancies that were not filled and 29 are proposed for not being filled in FY 2018-19. Over the past 10 years, DEEP has lost over 200 positions and this attrition has been devastating to DEEP’s ability to fulfill its mission;
  • Eliminates bonding for DEEP’s Open Space program – typically there are both bond funds and Community Investment Act funds available for open space grants.  Only CIA funds, which received a 50% cut, remain.
  • Eliminates bonding for Agricultural Land Preservation – similar story to DEEP’s Open Space program. Only CIA funds remain, though at a reduced level.
  • Eliminate funding for Recreational and Natural Heritage Fund which acquires land from willing sellers to become State Parks, Forests, and Wildlife Management Areas.
  • Eliminate the CT Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) which is Connecticut’s most important watchdog agency despite having only two staff and a budget of under $175,000.

Good News

  • Bonding for Clean Water and Drinking Water Funds proposed for full funding.
  • Recreational Trails and Greenways Grants Reinstated at $5 million in FY 2018. This program had been eliminated during the 2016 special session.
  • It could have been worse, we guess.  It seems like little consolation that the cut to DEEP’s budget could have been more devastating.  The total proposed cut of $4 million is “only” a ~5% cut which is better than the 8-10% cut which had originally been projected.  However, we remain concerned that there may be additional cuts to the General Fund forthcoming that were not included in this budget.

On Friday, February 17th, the Appropriations Committee will hold public hearings for the “Conservation and Development” Agencies such as the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP), and provide an opportunity for the public to present and submit testimony on various proposals.  Follow this link if you would like to learn more about what is happening on February 17th and look forward to more information from CFPA you can use if you are willing to submit testimony or attend this important public hearing.

Thank you for your support of CFPA and for taking action for your State Parks, Forests, and Trails.  If you have questions or would like to get more involved, just email CFPA Executive Director, Eric Hammerling via ehammerling@ctwoodlands.org