[Cross posted from ONE Massachusetts]
While reading an article from Mass Audobon about the most recent budget cuts in the environmental field I couldn’t stop thinking about what needs to get done for elected officials to understand that level or under funded programs should not be the rule in the state.
This conversation is not just about percentages, numbers, and dollar amounts. While dollar amounts pay for the services and programs we care about they don’t offer the human face of what under funded programs mean for the community: seniors without proper elderly services, children taking classes in crowded classrooms, youth without summer jobs, less police enforcement and firemen walking our streets and less environmental programs that protect our natural resources, the quality of our air and water and our endangered species just to name a few.
While reading this Mass Audobon report I was shocked to learn that our so called progressive state invest less than 1 percent of its budget in environmental protection related activities.
“Over the past ten years, annual environmental spending dropped from $245 million to $178.5 million proposed for 2012—or a drop from 1.1 percent of total spending to 0.58 percent.”
This drop from 1.1 percent to .58 percent has meant a loss of 30 percent of the Environmental Protection budget, including funds for hazardous waste site oversight, and more than a quarter of Conservation and Recreation funds and staff; elimination of the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program, among many others.
In 2003, the last time the Environmental Council of the States crunched the numbers, Massachusetts ranked 49 out of 50 in percentage of state budget spent on environmental programs.
Massachusetts has always been a pioneer of passing legislation championing environmental protection initiatives but has failed in providing the means to implement that legislation in a way that will have a real impact in our communities. Let’s not wait for the quality of our air and natural resources to deteriorate even further to take action. We need to protect these services among others by increasing the revenue sources of the state. Let’s not take a piece of the shrinking budget pie, let’s better make it bigger for everyone.