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Jerome Lyle Rappaport

Jerome Lyle Rappaport
Founder and Board Member
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Edward Glaeser

Edward Glaeser
Professor of Economics at Harvard University
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Stephen P. Johnson

Stephen P. Johnson
Executive Director of Phyllis and Jerome Lyle Rappaport Foundation
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Greg Massing

Greg Massing
Executive Director for the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service
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Alasdair Roberts

Alasdair Roberts
Professor of Law and Public Policy at Suffolk University Law School
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Joseph Curtatone

Joseph Curtatone
Mayor, City of Somerville
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Tim H. Davis

Tim H. Davis
Independent Research Consultant
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Scott Harshbarger

Scott Harshbarger
Senior Counsel, Proskauer Rose LLP
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Vivien Li

Vivien Li
Executive Director of The Boston Harbor Association
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Guest contributors

Monika Bandyopadhyay
Suffolk University Law Student

David Barron
Harvard Law School and former Deputy Counsel for the Office of Legal Counsel in the US Department of Justice

Linda Bilmes
Senior lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Assistant Secretary of Commerce during the Clinton Administration.

Brandy H.M. Brooks
Director, Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence, Bruner Foundation

Felicia Cote
Rappaport Fellow, Harvard Law School/Harvard Kennedy School.

Amanda Eden
Suffolk University Law School student

Sara Farnum
Student, Suffolk Univ. Law School

Kristin Faucette
Student at Suffolk University Law School

Benjamin Forman
Research Director, MassINC

Arthur Hardy-Doubleday
JD/MBA student at Suffolk University Law School and the Sawyer School of Business

Theodore Kalivas
Boston Green Blog, Dukakis Center for Urban & Regional Policy

David Linhart
Student, Boston University School of Law

Antoniya Owens
Research Analyst, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

Susan Prosnitz
Senior Advisor, TSA, Washington, DC

Ben Thomas
Boston Green Blog, Dukakis Center for Urban & Regional Policy

Matthew Todaro
Student at Boston College Law School

Alexander von Hoffman
Senior Researcher, Joint Center for Housing Studies

Brett Walker
Student, Boston College Law School

Margarita Warren
Student at Suffolk University Law School

Articles by Matthew Todaro

Environmental Budget Cuts: Passing the Financial Burden to Future Generations

Friday, September 23rd, 2011
By Matthew Todaro

On July 11, 2011, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law the 2012 state budget. Included in the budget were significant cuts to environmental programs; so what, you may ask, is the big deal? By making such cuts, policy makers succumbed to the temptation of a short-term solution—one that ultimately will cost Massachusetts tax-payers dramatically more in the long-run.

As lawmakers strip short-term funding, they run the risk that environmental agencies will become unable to uphold even the most rudimentary protections of public health and the environment. If Massachusetts cannot sustain a healthy environment, health-related costs will rise, corporations will struggle to attract and retain a well-educated work force, farming and fishing industries will decline and the state’s $14 billion tourism industry will be jeopardized.

Such cuts may be a response to the theory that environmental protection detracts from economic growth. Thankfully, the “economy vs. environment” myth was debunked over ten years ago. A landmark study by MIT found that states with stronger environmental policies “consistently out-performed the weaker environmental states on all economic measurements.” Moreover, in the past 40 years, environmental protection has developed into a discrete industry of its own, creating thousands of new, well-paying jobs at a rate faster than many other industries.

And then there is also the cost of climate change to consider too. The Bay State stands to be hit enormously hard by climate change. Even the most modest predictions for sea level rise will cost Massachusetts millions – if not billions – in coastal flooding. Stripping funding from agencies that protect the wetlands that are critical to mitigating sea-level rise only ensures that climate change will be that much more destructive and costly to arguably the most valuable treasure our state has to offer. When it comes to mitigating the effects of climate change, an ounce of policy prevention is most certainly worth more than the cost of a pound of cure.

Massachusetts’ record on the environment is mixed. The state’s Global Warming Solutions Act, passed in 2008, is arguably the most aggressive green legislation in the nation. Since taking office in 2007, the Patrick Administration has attempted to position itself as a leader in the race towards a clean energy economy and has enacted a handful of policy measures that admittedly deserve spirited applause. The number of in-state solar jobs have grown nearly twofold since 2007. The state has recently broken ground on the nation’s first facility to test large-scale wind turbine blades. And Massachusetts is home to the most stringent mercury regulations in the nation.

And yet, the same elected officials who pass innovative policies also fail to fund the programs they design. This allows lawmakers to bask in the glow of great headlines while industry is ultimately allowed to pollute unregulated and unchecked, defeating the entire purpose of the policies’ inception.

For well over a decade now, state officials have voted to dramatically reduce the budgets for the Departments of Environmental Protection, Conservation and Recreation and Fish and Game.

In 2001, the state spent $245 million of its $22 billion budget on the above mentioned agencies (slightly more than 1 percent of its total budget). Today, the state plans to spend $160 million of its $30.6 billion budget on the same environmental programs (roughly 0.5 percent of its total budget). Yes, your math is correct: that’s nearly a 50 percent slashing in just over ten years.

Unique for administrative agencies, the environmental agencies in Massachusetts generate enough revenue through permitting, licensing and enforcement to cover nearly two-thirds of their operating costs. However, unlike other states such as New York, Massachusetts sweeps that funding back into its general coffers. This leaves our environmental agencies vulnerable to the whims of appropriators year after year.

In administrative agencies, budget cuts lead directly to staff cuts. Cutting large numbers of staff is self-defeating. New clean energy projects require permitting. Many of these permits come from Massachusetts’s environmental agencies. Staff cuts slow approval times. Delays frustrate businesses. Once promising investment streams dry up or move on to more favorable locations.

Unlike years before, Massachusetts can’t expect the federal government to bail it out. Roughly one-third of the state’s environmental budget is supported by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Mounted by those determined to gut the agency of its ability to protect public health and the environment, the EPA is attempting to weather its own budgetary attack.

The state’s steady decline in funding of its environmental programs comes at potentially one of the worst possible moments. The nation and our state are experiencing unprecedented and extreme weather patterns, from soaring heat waves and flooding to severe storms, tornados and forest fires and record snowfall. Climate scientists have predicted for years that as we pump more and more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, we will effectively heat up and flood the planet all at once (warmer air holds more water vapor than cool, dry air). Budgetary cuts to environmental agencies will only exacerbate this frightening trend.

Consistent and deep budget cuts to environmental programs are simply fiscally irresponsible. It may be convenient to pass today’s budgetary buck, but it will only stick our children and grandchildren with a hefty bill. For our collective sake, let’s hope it’s not time to start practicing for the day when they look us squarely in the eyes and ask “but why”?

Mathew Todaro was a Rappaport Fellow in Law and Public Policy in 2011. He is pursuing a juris doctorate at Boston College Law School. He received a B.A. in History and Public Policy from The George Washington University and worked for four years on international climate change policy in Washington, D.C. As a Rappaport Fellow, Todaro worked in the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

For the full text of this article click here.

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