Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Despite the reality, you have to give it to State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli for trying to put the best spin on the situation possible in the headline, "DiNAPOLI: PENSION FUND REMAINS STRONG IN MIDST OF SLUGGISH ECONOMY."
Strong, of course, is a relative term. But concretely, the state's pension has fallen by an estimated 7.48 percent this fiscal quarter. The fund now stands at $133.8 billion.
“Like almost all investors, the Fund has been affected by the sluggish economy and increased volatility in the markets,” DiNapoli said in the statement. “The Fund remains one of the strongest in the U.S. and our diversified portfolio will keep it secure and poised for strong returns in the coming months.”
Friday, November 18, 2011
First there was the Assembly's "quick start" report released yesterday. There's a bit of uncertainty in the budget gap they see next year--whether it's a full $1.8 billion or if that figure takes into account the shortfall in this year's budget as well--but the message is the same.
[T]he [midyear report] notes that there are serious risks to the economic outlook of the nation and New York State. Problems that were central to the recent recession continue, particularly weaknesses in both the labor market and the housing market. Furthermore, a highly volatile stock market and the European debt crisis have created considerable uncertainty in the financial markets.
Today, State Comptroller Thoma DiNapoli's office heaped on the pile of budget downers with a release saying the October tax revenues were below expectations by $584 million.
“New York’s financial results over the past several months support the recent downward revisions to the State’s Financial Plan and reinforce recent Quick Start projections,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “It is more important than ever to confront our budgetary problems with responsible, recurring actions to ensure a fair and balanced budget that improves the health of our state’s economy.”
The Governor's office has said the budget gap next year could be as high as $3.5 billion.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
EJ McMahon of the Manhattan Institute has an interesting op-ed in today's New York Post. He goes after Governor Andrew "The Government" Cuomo for blowing by a set of legally mandated budget reviews. Something's fishy about the whole thing for McMahon--and, to be honest, with many reporters--since the argument that volatility in European markets just doesn't make a lot of sense.
[The Division of the Budget] has coped with even more uncertainty in the recent past. In fall 2001, the budget agency under Gov. George Patakimanaged to issue a financial plan update less than 10 days after the attack on the World Trade Center. In the midst of a full-blown Wall Street panic in fall 2008, with David Paterson barely settled in the governor’s office, it issued its mid-year update two days early. In 2009, as stock-market volatility rose toward record highs, the mid-year report was right on schedule.
So what gives, Gov? In conversations with people involved in the budget process, some directly, there has been a calm reciting of the same reasons the governor has given for the delay. There was no reason, I was told, to be alarmed.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
From a new report on the state's fiscal condition released today by the Comptroller's office:
Growth in revenue collections in several major categories of taxes is slowing, and at the midpoint of the fiscal year, Personal Income Tax, sales tax, and business taxes are lagging recent projections by $400 million. If these trends continue, the state may need to adjust its revenue projections downward.
This is probably a major part of the problem. From Susanne Craig's post yesterday in the Times DealBook on Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street banks decreased profits:
New York, the nation’s financial hub, is bracing for the fallout. Wall Street, which accounts for 14 percent of the state’s tax revenue, is expected to lay off an additional 10,000 employees in the area by 2012, bringing total layoffs since 2008 to 32,000, according to a recent report by the New York State Comptroller.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
The State Comptroller's office says budget targets for New York City and New York state will likely fall short this year. The reason is a drop in Wall Street revenues.
Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released the new forecast Tuesday morning. It found that New York's tax revenues will be down about a third compared to last year.
"Keep in mind 2010 was a very strong year so, to put it in context, this is still going to be a good year and a profitable year, it just shows that some of the high profitability we saw last year you're not going to see again this year," DiNapoli said.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Manhattan DA Cy Vance announced the indictment of the United Hispanic Construction Workers, Inc. earlier today. The organization's president and chief lieutenant were accused of extortion and forced hiring for 17 years.
So, of course, the first thought was, which politicians have they donated money to?
The only recent filings that popped up were from November 16, 2009. The organization gave two separate $500 donations. To whom? That would be New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's reelection campaign.
DiNapoli certainly received a lot more money from a lot of people. But his campaign was the only one the now-indicted group bothered to fund in recent memory, according to the state Board of Elections. Their last major donation before that appears to be during Mayor David Dinkins's 1989 bid.
Update: A spokesperson for the comptroller's office said that DiNapoli intends to return the money donated by the United Hispanic Construction Workers.
TN MOVING STORIES: NY's Comptroller Sounds MTA Debt Alarm, House Dems Want to Save Auto Loan Program, and Where Have All the Hitchhikers Gone?
Thursday, September 22, 2011
By Kate Hinds
New census data shows how the nation commutes to work -- and how New York is different. (Link)
High-speed rail got a last-minute reprieve -- sort of. (Link)
Chicago will roll out a bike share program next summer. (Link)
The interim chief of the Texas DOT wants more travel options -- not just lanes. (Link)
House Democrats flirt with shutdown to save the $1.5 billion government loan program that helps car companies build fuel-efficient vehicles. (Washington Post)
The UAW agreed to extend its existing labor contract with Chrysler until Oct. 19 and plans to target Ford for a new labor contract next. (Detroit Free Press)
Freakonomics radio: higher rates of driver's licenses and car ownership have all but killed hitchhiking. (Marketplace)
Norfolk's light rail -- which just opened last month -- is already so popular that officials are talking expansion. (WTKR)
Massachusetts needs $15 billion in transportation fixes, and the MBTA is looking at a fare hike. (Boston Globe)
"If you smell something, sign something:" NYC transit workers -- whose contract with the MTA is up in four months -- demonstrated in Queens to protest staff cuts and sanitation issues at stations. (NBC New York)
President Obama returns to Boehner country today to use a major bridge in need of repair as a prop for yet another sales pitch for his jobs plan. (Politico)
Orioles pitcher -- and bicycle enthusiast -- Jeremy Guthrie (whose Twitter location puts him on "a bike or the bump") explored Boston on a Hubway bike. (Link)
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
The Economic Development Corporation set over this statement in response to Comptroller Liu's audit. From EDC spokesperson Patrick Muncie:
We appreciate the Comptroller’s analysis, and we’re glad it determined that EDC has disbursed a vast majority of the funds available for community benefit. The Comptroller’s suggestions for the remaining funds may be well-intentioned, but they ignore the disbursement restrictions EDC is legally bound to follow, and many are infeasible or simply not in the best interest of the City’s taxpayers. We will continue to ensure that all of the funds are wisely invested in the neighborhoods for which they were intended.
For time's sake I'm condensing two separate audits released today--one by New York City Comptroller John Liu, the other by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
Liu finds millions in unspent city development funds
The comptroller's office says an audit found $9.3 million in unspent funds meant for public benefit projects on the Economic Development Corporation's books. The bulk of the funds were approved in 1992 as part of a development deal, and meant benefit the Harlem River Rail Yard in the Bronx.
“It makes little sense that millions intended for economic development remain unused for so long, especially in the Bronx where jobs are greatly needed,” Liu said in a statement. “If the EDC can’t figure out how to put the capital to work then at least return the money to the City treasury.”
DiNapoli's audit of the MTA confirms the agency's deep fiscal woes
According to a report put out by DiNapoli's office, many of the concerns over the sustainability of the MTA's capital program were well founded. An audit of the agency revealed considerable risks in the financial assumptions its making, and warned that taking on more debt would only complicate things.
“The MTA is in a very difficult position as it struggles to hold together a strained operating budget while proposing the largest borrowing program in its history to fund capital projects,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “Before taking on nearly $15 billion in new debt, the MTA must present the public with the facts about the potential long-term implications of this new borrowing on services, fares and budget gaps.”
The comptroller warned that, if the MTA took on the proposed debt, the interest paid on what the agency owed could reach $3.3 billion by 2018. That would be 64 percent more than it is this year. DiNapoli projected that, even with scheduled fare and toll increases, the MTA could still face a budget gaps rising from $600 million in 2016 to $1.2 billion in 2018.
All of this, of course, would be waiting for whomever Governor Andrew Cuomo picks to replace departing MTA head Jay Walder later next month.
“The next MTA Chairperson will face a number of challenges including negotiating new collective bargaining agreements, squeezing additional savings from the operating and capital budgets, and keeping fares affordable in the face of rising debt service costs for the capital program,” DiNapoli said.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Don't say he didn't warn us: Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli today released his monthly report on the state's finances and the news wasn't good. The state pulled in $351.5 million less than expected, essentially negating June's better-than-expected tax receipts.
“New York’s recovering economy is struggling to reach cruising altitude, and the turbulence from volatile financial markets, a lackluster job market, a struggling housing sector, and political brinksmanship in Washington is creating additional drag,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “Each of these factors could impact results through the remainder of the fiscal year. We have to remain vigilant to keep our finances on track. Our fiscal margins are very tight, and we could go off course very quickly.”
The state's General Fund ended July with a balance of $1.9 billion, just $9.4 million higher than projections. The state is pulling in 8.4 percent more than it did this time last year, according to the report.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Another day, another endorsement. This time it's a statewide official backing Assemblyman David Weprin's campaign in the 9th Congressional District. Thomas DiNapoli is the latest Democratic elected official to come out in support of Weprin, following up on US Senator Charles Schumer's endorsement announcement yesterday.
“With our nation facing some of the greatest fiscal challenges in a generation, we need David Weprin’s financial and budgeting experience in Congress,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “I know David Weprin and I trust David Weprin. He is ready to make the tough decisions it will take to keep our fiscal house in order while protecting critical programs like Medicare.”
DiNapoli pointed to Weprin's time as head of the city council's powerful finance committee--something Weprin's opponent, Bob Turner, has used as a point of attacking. Turner's campaign has questioned Weprin's statements about the council's "slush fund" scandal, as well as his outside earnings while in the council.
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
By Karen DeWitt, WXXI Capitol Bureau Chief Governor
As New York state prepares to permit hydrofracking on some private lands, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says he’s attempting to address a missing element so far in the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s plans.
Under the current rules, if a homeowner’s drinking water were to be contaminated by hydrofracking accidents, their only choice is to hire a lawyer and try to sue the gas company for damages.
“That could be costly and time consuming,” said DiNapoli. “Because it is a private right of action, we don’t really know how many accidents or incidents are happening right now with natural gas drilling.”
The comptroller proposes setting up a fund, financed by fees on drilling companies, that could be used to pay for remediation should there be an accident at one of the fracking sites, or if chemicals leak to drinking wells and water is contaminated. The Comptroller says his office already administers an oil spill fund, the hydrofracking fund would operate under the same structure.
“It would make sense to have a safety net in place ,” said DiNapoli.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
By Karen DeWitt : NYS Public Radio/WXXI
Governor Andrew Cuomo said he remains hopeful that President Barack Obama and Congress will resolve their differences over the debt ceiling, and that a default that could harm New York and other states won’t occur.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
By Karen DeWitt : NYS Public Radio/WXXI
Albany, NY —
President Barack Obama and Congress do not agree on a way to increase the federal debt ceiling, the default could affect New York State in a number of ways — from a weakened state pension fund to significant gaps in the state budget, the state's comptroller warned.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office delivered some good news this morning: taxes have come in almost $800 million above what was expected during the recently ended 2011-2012 fiscal year. But he warned in a press release not too be too optimistic.
“Revenue collections in the first quarter were strong, but our fiscal health is tenuous,” DiNapoli said. He continued:
We received the last of the significant federal stimulus funding in June, and the temporary PIT surcharge ends in the third quarter this year. The federal debt limit crisis, weakness in the housing market, and international financial and political instability continue to pose threats to the recovery. The Blue Chip consensus economic forecasts for growth continue to be revised downward. State leaders need to focus on diversifying our economic base, creating jobs, and rebuilding reserves to prepare the state for any fiscal difficulties ahead.
Both personal income and business taxes rose, with the later up 32 percent from last year. Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos chimed in with a press release echoing the comptroller's cautionary tone.
"Today’s report by Comptroller DiNapoli, showing that tax collections for the first quarter of the State’s Fiscal Year have far outpaced recent estimates, is encouraging, and we must continue to monitor this situation over the next six months," Skelos said in a release. If the savings continue, he said, state government should focus on cutting taxes to individuals and businesses.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
The state comptroller's office released an audit that found the state agency could not justify $1.18 billion in contracts, saying millions of dollars in savings are being missed out on.
"When it comes to being transparent with taxpayers, the Port Authority is falling down on the job," DiNapoli said in a release. "Our audit found that the Port Authority's business model is zero growth in personnel, but they achieve that by contracting with outside consultants on a permanent basis. The PA needs to do a top to bottom review of how they manage headcount so they can show taxpayers they are getting the best services at the lowest cost. This agency needs much more transparency and accountability."
The crux of the issue is the Port Authority's use of contractors to keep with a directive of no additional hiring. The contractors aren't on the authority's payroll, technically, but the move, according to the comptroller, is costing tax payers. The Port Authority was unable to show auditors a paper trail of why contractors deserved as much as they were charging. From the report:
Department officials could not justify the need for 25 of 30 Service Contracts worth a total of $785.1 million that were sampled in the audit. PA Bus Terminal authorities informed auditors that PA management did not require them to substantiate a six-year, $27.5 million cleaning contract even though it was based on an assessment completed in 1980. In another case, the PA entered into a three-year $1.2 million contract for an electrical contract to change light bulbs and ballasts. No support was provided to show that this was more cost-effective than using Port Authority staff to perform these tasks.
Some Port Authority officials told auditors that even when cost analyses indicate the addition of in-house staff would be more cost-effective, requests to do so would most likely be turned down. As a result, the Port Authority relies extensively on a permanent workforce of contractors for essential services over the course of multiple years.
You can view a copy of the actual audit here.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office today reported the state's general pension fund ended its fiscal year with a 14.5 percent return--nearly double the fund's 7.5 percent assumed rate of return. The fund was estimated to be worth $146.5 billion, hitting its highest point since the economic downturn of 2008.
"We've come a long way back. The strong returns should reassure our beneficiaries and New York taxpayers that the Fund is strong and sustainable," DiNapoli said in a press release. "There still are reasons to be cautious about the ongoing recovery, but the results are a good sign that the Fund has weathered the worst of the downturn."
UPDATE: Capital Confidential is reporting that the pension returns aren't the only good news at the state level. State revenues are also reportedly on the rebound. From the article:
"One of the more telling charts was #11 which shows that in New York, major taxes in the Fiscal Year to Date are up 11.6 percent."
Check out the full story here.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
By Alec Hamilton : Assistant Producer, WNYC News
TN Moving Stories: How Ethanol Affects Food Prices, Honda Takes to the Air, and Colorado City To Link Schools with Bike Lanes
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
By Kate Hinds
NPR reports on how US ethanol subsidies affect food prices. "When the price of gas goes up, it raises the demand for ethanol — and that means consumers will feel it in two places: at the gas pump and on the dinner table."
The Federal Transit Administration awarded $25.7 million in grants to help communities analyze and expand their transit systems. One of the winners was Washington DC, which won $1 million for a feasibility study looking at running streetcars along DC's K Street. (WAMU)
Next American City asks: can a new streetcar save Atlanta's MARTA?
From four wheels to two wings: Honda just made its first flight in a FAA-conforming jet, paving the way for Honda Aircraft to sell planes in the American market. (AutoNews)
The Aurora (Colorado) City Council moved forward with a plan to implement bike lanes that will connect nine area schools. (Aurora Sentinel)
The New York State comptroller rejected a $118 million transit contract with Science Applications International Corp., saying the company's role in the CityTime contracting scandal remains unclear. (Wall Street Journal)
The New York Daily News wrote an editorial taking the MTA to task for "replacing subway literature with self-congratulatory ads." Reminder: write your own literary service announcement and post it to the WNYC website!
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
By Charlie Herman : Business and Economics Editor
New York City’s economy has recovered faster than the state and the nation, but larger than expected city deficits and the slowly recovering national economy could keep unemployment high for years to come.
According to city comptroller John Liu, businesses gained 74,000 jobs in the first 10 months of this year. Restaurants, retailers and health care companies accounted for the majority of the new jobs.