The Money Connecticut Drivers Paid for LI Sound License Plates Will Not Be Used for LI Sound
Several years ago the Connecticut legislature and governor started using money in the state's Clean Water Fund for things other than clean water projects, and it wasn't until a lot of environmental advocates noticed and took umbrage that the politicians in Hartford fully funded the CWF.
That money is for capital projects like upgrading sewage treatment plants on Long Island Sound. Money from the Sound license plate program generally goes to other Sound-related projects.
But if you shelled out $50 or $85 or $100 for a Sound license plate recently with the expection that the state would actually do what it said it would do with the money, the joke's on you. The new state budget takes all of the money -- $143 million over two years -- and sweeps it into the general fund to be used for anything Hartford wants.
Even more of a joke: the state plans to keep selling the license plates, even though the money won't be spent on the Sound.
The Connecticut Post has an excellent story about it, here (although it doesn't talk about the Clean Water Fund raid). Here's an excerpt:
Christopher Phelps, director of statewide initiatives for the nonprofit Environment Connecticut, said the Long Island Sound Fund was an unlikely victim of the budget process this year, since protection of the Sound is a bipartisan issue.
"The Long Island Sound license plate was created and people bought those license plates under the express understanding that extra money they were spending was going specifically to help protect and restore Long Island Sound," he said. "Now that money is just being swept right into the General Fund and the people who chose to paid that extra money for the specific purpose of protecting the Sound are not getting the money to go to that purpose."
Phelps said that over the decades, all the state's environmental protection needs have been chronically underfunded.
"But in Long Island Sound, being the signature natural resource for the state, we have made incredible progress at the state and national level, working in partnership effectively and with New York, cleaning it up over time and obviously, we're nowhere near done cleaning it up," he said. "One of the funding streams that has really helped make that happen has been things like the Long Island Sound license plate, knowing that the broad environmental protection funding in Connecticut has never really gotten where it should be."
And Terry Backer, the Soundkeeper and a member of the General Assembly, bluntly said that people shouldn't waste their money on the plates:
"My sense is they shouldn't buy the plates anymore," Backer said in a phone interview. "The main reason why people bought Long Island Sound plates is they cared about the Sound, they used it, or didn't use it, but they cared."
The Post story also has a good summary of projects the fund has paid for over the years:
All told, the money collected from the "Preserve the Sound" license plate program went to 294 projects since the fund was created in 1993. Here's a list of some of them:
-- $23,000 for the Bridgeport Board of Education's Aquaculture school for raising scallops in 1994.
-- 18,000 for the installation of floating docks at Shelton's Sunnyside boat facility on the Housatonic River.
-- $50,000 to help pay for the demolition of the former Long Beach cottage community in Stratford.
== $1,250 for Derby's Kellogg Environmental Center to create banners portraying drainage basins.
== $25,000 for the Connecticut Audubon Coastal Center in Milford to invest in a salt-marsh laboratory.
-- $4,150 to send water conservation brochures to every home in Darien.
-- $5,775 for a population study of diamondback terrapins by Fairfield University.
-- $13,000 for Seymour middle school students to study the Naugatuck River.
-- $60,000 for the Stamford-based Sound Waters to help with learning labs at Cove Island Park and with after-school programming.
-- $16,900 for Friends of Sherwood Island State Park's nature center displays.
-- $25,000 for a clean boating program by the Norwalk-based Long Island Soundkeeper Fund designed to cut down on human waste in the Sound.
-- $2,500 to help the New Canaan Nature Center Association Inc. establish a Girl Scout and Brownie program.
-- $140,000 in several grants to the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, including $18,614 for a live webcam at the Sheffield Island lighthouse in Norwalk harbor, a $24,000 traveling science show for elementary and middle schools and a $20,000 study of harbor seals.