(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—Alison Prost, Maryland Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, issued this statement following the vote Tuesday by the Senate Budget and Taxation Subcommittee on Public Safety, Transportation, and Environment to further reduce funding to the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund:
"The Trust Fund already has been cut nearly 48 percent this year. (In his FY 2013 Budget submission, the Governor proposed diverting $23 million from the $48 million Fund revenues). These drastic, additional defacto cuts of $4.4 million would make it impossible for Maryland to meet its obligations to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
"Maryland for years has led other Bay states in pushing for clean, healthy water. If the legislature further slashes a critical fund for that work, it jeopardizes Maryland's leadership role.
"The public is fed up with legislative raids on funds meant for specific purposes to pay for other government needs. The Trust Fund has been raided each year. This action would reach further into the pocket of a critical fund to pay for an important but separate obligation.
"The legislature boldly established the Trust Fund in 2007 to accelerate the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay. In its most recent Watershed Implementation Plan, Maryland said it will rely more than ever on the fund in coming years to clean the Bay. On paper we are underscoring the importance of the Trust Fund, but in reality we are treating it like a common slush fund. While we agree that we need additional technical assistance that is provided by the Soil Conservation Districts this cannot come at the expense of on-the-ground pollution reduction projects for which the Trust Fund was established.
"In these very difficult economic times, state spending to protect Maryland's environment is one of the smartest investments we can make. Protecting Maryland's environment is a high-return investment that produces multiple immediate dividends—protecting jobs now and keeping our water clean.
"We ask Senate leadership to correct this grave mistake when the full Budget and Tax Committee meets in the coming days and we will be looking to the House to reject any such proposals as well. Now is not the time to back away from our commitment to the Bay and local water quality."