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Comptroller Sees Risks, New Borrowing in Proposed State Budget

12:09 AM, Feb 14, 2013   |    comments
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By Joseph Spector

Albany Bureau

ALBANY, NY-- Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget helps the state's fiscal condition, but relies on new borrowing and risky revenue sources to do it, a report Wednesday by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said.

Cuomo introduced a $136 billion budget on Jan. 22 that limits state spending growth to 1.9 percent and closes a $1.3 billion budget gap. DiNapoli applauded the fiscal restraint, but cautioned that the budget would increase the state's debt burden, rely on new temporary revenues and count on federal aid that may not be secured.

DiNapoli said the proposed budget includes tax-revenue projections that may be too optimistic.

"New York's fiscal challenges are significant for the foreseeable future. In the face of a challenging economy, this budget appropriately restrains spending. However, it includes risks on both the spending and revenue sides of the ledger," DiNapoli said in a statement.

The fiscal year starts April 1. The budget requires legislative approval.

DiNapoli warned that the budget would reduce transparency, such as eliminating state reporting requirements for local governments and school districts as of April 1, 2014. The only ones who would still have to report are those ordered to do so by a mandate relief council controlled by Cuomo.

DiNapoli noted a number of proposed shifts in state money that he said would carry risks.

He said the budget shifts $1.75 billion from the state Insurance Fund, which covers workers' compensation costs, to the general fund to pay for ongoing operations. The budget would also expand the role of public authorities, which has long been criticized for being off the public books and out of public oversight.

DiNapoli said Cuomo's budget includes a $3.3 billion increase in bonding authorization for state public authorities.

There was no immediate comment from Cuomo's office.

DiNapoli has warned in recent years about budget proposals that would shift authority to the governor's office, and the comptroller raised that concern again this year. He said the budget includes nearly $2 billion for capital projects that would be under Cuomo's authority.

The budget estimates a 4.6 percent increase in personal wages and salaries this year and employment growth of 1.3 percent. It also includes an assumption that personal income tax collections will grow 6.6 percent. DiNapoli said the estimates are rosy and haven't been achieved in recent years.

DiNapoli said the budget also assumes $175 million in proceeds from a not-for-profit health insurance company conversion and $133 million in revenue from Native American casinos -- which have yet to materialize.

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