Pension Fund Posts Negative Return

The total value of the state’s pension fund fell in the second quarter following a broader under performance of the financial markets, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office on Wednesday announced.

The fund’s rate of return was a negative 0.52 percent, taking the pension fund’s estimated value to $178.3 billion.

At the start of the state’s fiscal year, April 1, the fund was valued at $176.8 billion and had grown to $180.7 billion.

DiNapoli blamed the fund’s poor performance on “challenges” in the various markets, including small cap stocks and central banking decisions that led to market volatility overall.

“On the heels of a robust first quarter, the second quarter presented investors with challenges,” DiNapoli said. “As always, our diversified investment allocation positions us to maximize long-term value.”

State Pension Fund Commits $50M In New Investments

The state pension fund has committed $50 million in additional investment funds that will go toward state-based companies, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli announced on Tuesday.

The investment is part of the In-State Private Equity Investment Program, which DiNapoli said has been a success with a rate of return of $293 million while also boosting growht in the local economy.

Investments being made in the companies is being overseen by Graycliff Partners.

“This $50 million commitment to Graycliff will help to keep the state pension fund strong for the more than one million retirement system members and retirees as well as promote growth in our local economies,” DiNapoli said.

Overall, the state has invested $760 million in nearly 300 state-based companies, which the comptroller’s office says has either created or retained 4,000 jobs as of September.

The September report on the equity program can be found here:

Investing in NY Report 2014 by Nick Reisman

Comptroller: Tax Collections Higher Than Estimated

A report from state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office found tax collections were $610 million higher than initially estimated, while the state’s finances are buoyed by $3.5 billion in one-time financial settlements.

The report examined the state’s financial situation six months in to the fiscal year, which runs from April 1 through March 31.

“Midway through the fiscal year, New York’s cash position continues to improve,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “Tax collections are outpacing projections and settlement revenue is boosting state coffers. In the short term the state’s fiscal outlook is positive.”

New York has benefited from an avalanche of settlement money, including $2.2 billion from BNP Paribas, as well as $715 million from Credit Suisse.

The report concludes that the state’s general fund ended September with a $8.1 billion balance — more than two times higher than initially projected at the start of the year.

Nevertheless, these funds are considered one-time resources and the state’s revenue position is not expected to be as good this time next year.

While the employment picture nationally and in New York has improved, trouble signs continue, including the current Wall Street dip.

“For example, volatility in the major stock-market indices may have negative implications for the financial sector, which drives a significant share of the State’s tax revenues,” the report found.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed to use the state’s surplus in part to strengthen government consolidation and shared service programs, as well as invest in infrastructure programs as well as more education spending. On the last point, Cuomo has added the stipulation that the added education spending will be targeted toward performance.

2014-15 Midyear Report by Nick Reisman

Debate in State Comptroller’s Race Set for Oct. 15 (Updated)

Time Warner Cable News and NY1 are pleased to announce that Democrat Tom DiNapoli and Republican Bob Antonacci have agreed to a live, televised statewide debate in front of an audience at Baruch College on Wednesday, Oct. 15th.

The hour-long debate will be moderated by NY1 Political Anchor Errol Louis, who will be joined by panelists Liz Benjamin, the host of “Capital Tonight” on Time Warner Cable News; Juan Manuel Benitez of NY1 Noticias; and Jimmy Vielkind, the Albany Bureau Chief of Capital NY.

The debate will be held at 7 p.m. in Baruch’s historic Mason Hall and will be seen across the state on Time Warner Cable News, NY1 and with Spanish translation on NY1 Noticias. The debate will be held with NYC Votes, the voter engagement campaign of the New York City Campaign Finance Board. The debate will be free and open to the public.

Register here.

Antonacci Not Quite On the Air With 1st Ad

Also from the Morning Memo:

Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci has cut his first TV ad in his long-shot run for state comptroller.

It’s a cute ad, which features his biggest fan – his daughter, Jackie – who provides a primer on the responsibilities of this little-known state post, and says her “really smart” Dad is just the guy for the job.

Trouble is, Antonacci doesn’t quite have enough cash yet to get the ad on the air – something he really needs to do in order to raise his name recognition as he challenges the Democratic incumbent, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

So, Antonacci has released the ad as a fundraising tool, urging supporters to make a donation to “unlock matching funds” and enable him to hit the airwaves ASAP.

Antonacci has been having trouble meeting the requirements of the public campaign finance PILOT program set up by the governor and legislative leaders during the last session.

Even though DiNapoli advocated making his office the test case for public matching funds, he refused – with the support of good government groups – to participate in this last-minute program.

So, Antonacci will be the lone participant, assuming he manages to make the cut.

Antonacci Says He’s Hit 2,000-Donor Threshold

Republican candidate for state comptroller Bob Antonacci on Monday announced his campaign had hit the 2,000-donor threshold, a key stepping stone to obtaining public matching funds under the newly adopted public financing program.

Antonacci is yet to reach $200,000 in donations, however, in order to trigger the public match.

“If our campaign can reach this $200,000 goal in the next few days, we will be able to tell our story to the voters of New York State,” Antonacci said in a fundraising appeal sent out by the state Republican Committee.

Antonacci is participating in the public matching program, which as created in the state budget.

The program lasts only for this year and was cast as a “pilot” program for the state comptroller’s race.

Incumbent Democratic Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is not participating in the public financing program, blasting the system approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers for coming in the middle of an election cycle.

Good-government advocates, too, have been deeply critical of the system approved this year, raising concerns half-a-loaf program is designed with the potential to fail.

Goo-Goos Seek Comptroller Scrutiny of Tax Credits

From the morning memo:

Eight good government groups recently wrote to state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, asking his office to “significantly increase its scrutiny of the state’s estimated $1.7 billion in annual subsidies provided by 50 business tax credits.”

In a Sept. 8 letter, the organizations suggested that DiNapoli begin by reviewing the largest credits, which amount to close to 75 percent of authorized business tax subsidies.

That includes the brownfield cleanup progam, the film and TV production credits and Empire Zones.

“In particular, we ask that you assess whether those programs have robust, independent, and controls and a fair and transparent process for awarding subsidies,” the groups wrote.

This has been an ongoing issue for the good government community, which has long complained about the (well documented) lack of transparency with these programs, which give away millions of dollars worth of credits annually.

The goo-goos noted that a 2013 report by former state Comptroller H. Carl McCall and Peter J. Solomon (who co-chaired one of two tax reform commissions appointed by the governor), also raised concerns about this issue, determining that “tax incentives undermine transparency.”

DiNapoli Hopes Loan Claw Back Will Trigger Spending Plan For TZB

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is hopeful the partial denial of more than $400 million for the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project will help shine more light on the spending for the project.

“The big question mark still is how’s it going to be paid for and the real question is what’s the impact on tolls,” DiNapoli said in an interview after speaking to the state Business Council. “So as soon as the Thruway Authority comes forward with that information, I think the more confidence we’ll all have. So perhaps this denial will force a little more priority to have that full disclosure of the financing plan.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this month denied more than $400 million be used as a loan from the bridge, with the money come from a clean-water revolving loan fund. The state had initially sought $500 million to help pay for the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project, but EPA officials only approved $29 million for aspects of the project.

The state plans to appeal the decision.

Meanwhile, an independent authorities budget office is investigating the process through which the Thruway Authority requested the loan.

DiNapoli said he couldn’t compel the Thruway Authority to release more details on the proposal.

Cuomo, speaking with reporters today, reiterated that the loan was never a key piece for the bridge construction.

“The loan had nothing to do with anything. It was not part of the financing,” he said. “It was not part of the budget. The EPA loan came after the fact — way after the fact. So it was never an integral component for the Tappan Zee bridge or calculations for the Tappan Zee Bridge.”

He said there’s been “no discussion” about using a portion of the state’s $4 billion budget surplus to pay for the construction of the replacement bridge.

DiNapoli Plans To Debate Antonacci

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli was endorsed on Monday by the PBA of New York State, signaling a post Labor Day kick off for his re-election campaign.

“Endorsing Comptroller DiNapoli was an easy decision for our members,” said PBA of NYS President Manuel Vilar. “Residents of Upstate New York are learning what Long Islanders have long known: Comptroller DiNapoli has represented the voices of organized labor and the working class; he has acted in the best interest of all New Yorkers, and not in his self-interests; and he has committed to, and delivered on, his promise to be open and honest in his actions.”

The PBA of New York State formed in 2011 after breaking away from Council 82, which at the time was undergoing tough contract negotiations with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration. Today’s endorsement of DiNapoli is one of the first statewide nods the labor group has given since its formation.

DiNapoli, who assumed the office in 2007, is running statewide for a second time, and faces Republican Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci.

His campaign in 2010 was a bit more high profile, considering he faced Republican Harry Wilson, a wealthy self-funding candidate who narrowly lost.

This time around, DiNapoli is more of a known quantity for statewide voters, while Antonacci is working to qualify for the state’s newly formed public matching program, which applies only to the comptroller’s race.

Still, DiNapoli has focused on turn out in November and hopes to remind voters that he still has a race this year for an office that, while important, can be an after thought.

“We’re going to do what we can in the normal ways of getting the message out there and I hope those who support will remind people it’s out there,” he said. “Part of our effort on the political side certainly is to remind me this office is important, this race is going on.”

Antonacci has called for a series of debates with DiNapoli, who said today he expects there to be one.

“I’m sure there will be a debate,” he said.

Nurses Association For DiNapoli

The New York State Nurses Association on Wednesday rolled out their endorsement of Demcoratic state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

The endorsement is the latest labor nod for DiNapoli, who has the backing of the Civil Service Employees Association, the United Federation of Teachers and the state Troopers PBA.

“I am proud to receive the endorsement from the New York State Nurses Association and their over 37,000 hardworking members,” DiNapoli said in a statement released by his campaign. “The men and women of NYSNA are on the front lines of our health care system, providing the care that so many New Yorkers rely upon in time of need. Their endorsement today demonstrates their keen understanding of the importance of the Comptroller’s office in eliminating waste, fighting corruption and protecting our state workers’ pensions. I am delighted to have their support as we continue to spread the message of good government throughout the state.”

DiNapoli, who faces Republican Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci, is running for a second full term.

In giving its endorsement to DiNapoli, the association pointed both “progressive values and financial acumen.”

“The New York State Nurses Association is proud to endorse Tom DiNapoli for re-election as our State Comptroller,” said Anne Bové, President of the NYSNA HHC/Mayoral Executive Council and Registered Nurse at Bellevue Hospital. “Tom will continue to work toward a responsible budget that puts New Yorkers first. He is a man of progressive principles, strong values and great integrity. He loves this state and our nurses trust him to help lead New York as our Comptroller.”