DiNapoli: Sales Tax Growth Slows

Sales tax revenue grew by 2.4 percent in the first six months of 2014 compared to the first half of last year, but that is the weakest increase since the conclusion of the 2008 financial crisis, according to a report released by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.

Sales tax collections on the county level increased by $177 million in the first six months, gains that were driven mostly by New York City, which saw a rate increase of 4.8 percent.

The city accounted for almost 90 percent of local sales tax growth in the state.

Collections on Long Island — where local governments were battered by Hurricane Sandy — saw collections fall 3.8 percent, mostly due to the drop off in post-storm spending.

In the state’s Southern Tier region, collections fell .02 percent.

But overall, sales tax revenue is flat in most regions of the state, DiNapoli’s office found.

“While sales tax revenues continue to increase across the state, the growth is the weakest since the end of the Great Recession,” said DiNapoli. “Sales tax collections in New York City are thriving but several regions are experiencing only modest gains or even declines. Clearly our state’s economy remains in a recovery mode and local government officials will need to be mindful of the volatility of sales tax revenue as they monitor their budgets during the second half of the year.”

Local Sales Tax Collections 0714 by Nick Reisman

Antonacci Wants DiNapoli To Audit Moreland Spending (Updated)

Republican comptroller candidate Bob Antonacci on Wednesday urged his Democratic opponent to audit the spending of the now-defunct Moreland Commission on Public Corruption.

“Taxpayers deserve to know the truth. The Moreland Commission was put in place to do the Cuomo administration’s bidding and it ran up a very steep bill punishing the Governor’s enemies and protecting his friends. It’s time for Tom DiNapoli to wake up and get to the bottom of this so hardworking taxpayers can make an informed judgment about what really happened,” Antonacci said in a statement.

The statement from Antonacci suggests the fallout from today’s New York Times story could potentially spread to other races this election year.

Earlier in the day, Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino said in a statement Cuomo is in “big trouble” while his primary opponent Zephyr Teachout said the governor may consider resigning over the matter.

The commission’s work was paid for by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, with records showing the executive chamber paid $175,000 for services of the consulting K2 Intelligence, as well as $200,000 for Cyber Search Corp.

Copies of the contracts obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request showed that K2′s tasks included “creating dossiers on persons of interest.”

The executive director of the now-defunct panel, Regina Calcaterra, remains on the governor’s office payroll, earning $175,000 a year as of July 1, according to payroll records.

Updated: In a statement, DiNapoli’s office says it won’t take any action that could impede a federal review of the commission’s work.

“It has been widely reported in the press that the Moreland Commission is the subject of an ongoing federal examination. We have worked collaboratively with the United States Attorney’s office on many matters. As is always the case, we will provide any support and assistance requested. But the Comptroller’s office will not take any action that might interfere with their review,” said DiNapoli spokeswoman Jennifer Freeman.

DiNapoli: LIRR Strike Would Cost $50M

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli estimates a strike on the Long Island Rail Road could cost $50 million a day in economic activity.

In a release issued Tuesday evening, DiNapoli said that in addition to the logistical problems an LIRR strike would cause, it would also be a “devastating blow” to the surrounding service area.

“A LIRR strike would cause headaches and financial hardships for riders and businesses. It would also be another devastating blow to a region that is still struggling to recover from Superstorm Sandy and the recession,” DiNapoli said. “Both sides must go the extra mile to reach a reasonable settlement so we can avoid the costly impact of a strike and the millions of dollars in lost economic activity.”

Approximately 300,000 riders use the LIRR between Long Island and New York City daily.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, issued a statement this morning urging a resolution to the labor dispute.

“The Long Island Rail Road is a critical transportation system for Long Island and New York City. We must do everything we can to prevent Long Islanders from being held hostage by a strike that would damage the regional economy and be highly disruptive for commuters. Both the MTA and the LIRR unions need to put the interests of New Yorkers first by returning to the table today and working continuously to avoid a strike.”

DiNapoli: ORDA Dips Into Credit

An audit of the Olympic Regional Development Authority — the agency charged with managing ski centers in the Adirondacks and Catskills — has used its credit line to cover cash shortages and basic operating costs like payroll, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office found in a report released on Wednesday.

“ORDA’s continuing struggles to maintain fiscal balance show that the authority needs to explore new ways to save costs and commit to sound financial planning going forward,” DiNapoli said. “ORDA needs to develop a realistic and detailed multiyear financial plan to build its cash reserves and maintain operations for the economic benefit of local communities, as well as the tens of thousands of people who enjoy its attractions.”

ORDA operates ski centers at Whiteface and Gore Mountain as well as the Olympic facilities in Lake Place. The authority also maintains and operates the Belleayre Ski Area in the Catskills.

The audit found that from the start of the 2010-11 fiscal year through the 2012-3 fiscal year, ORDA’s losses included $4.2 million in cash. When taking depreciation, accounts receivable and post-employment benefits, the losses totaled $45 million.

DiNapoli’s office is urging the authority develop a more accurate method of tracking expenses and revenue as well as conduct a top-top-bottom review of ORDA’s spending to find ways to save costs.

13s18 by Nick Reisman

DiNapoli Endorsed By RWDSU

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has gained the endorsement of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union on Thursday, the third labor-related organization to support his re-election effort.

“I’m humbled and honored to have the support of RWDSU,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “From a higher minimum wage to better healthcare for workers, RWDSU has been instrumental in advocating for the progressive issues that matter most to working families in our state. I’m proud to have their support, and look forward to continuing our work together in the months and years to come.”

DiNapoli was previously endorsed by the labor-aligns Working Families Party as well as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

DiNapoli’s victory in 2010 was helped in part by support from labor.

The Democratic incumbent faces Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci this fall.

“Tom is a Comptroller for all New Yorkers and he continues to prove that by advocating for better shareholder policy that benefits public sector workers while pushing for better private sector worker protections,” said Stuart Applebaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union. “His willingness to stand with the labor movement and working people throughout this city makes the RWDSU proud to endorse him.”

Antonacci Pitches Public Match As ‘Opportunity’

Republican comptroller candidate Bob Antonacci on Wednesday released a letter to potential contributors and supports touting the public-financing program that impacts his race as an “opportunity” to help win the post.

The comptroller-only public financing program as agreed to in the state budget has been decried by good-government advocates for not being a broader system.

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, the incumbent Democrat, is not opting in on the program, citing both public financing supporters’ opposition as well as its implementation in the middle of the election cycle.

But Antonacci is participating in the program following a relatively late entrance into the statewide campaign.

In the letter distributed by the state GOP, Antonacci says DiNapoli’s decision not to participate was a cynical move.

It’s no secret that I won’t have the Albany insider money that Tom DiNapoli has. You know these insiders will be looking to cash in on their investment. He’s even cynically opted out of a matching funds pilot program created by the Governor and Legislature just for this office, despite calling for it to happen.

But, therein lies our opportunity. Contributions will be matched six to one from New York State voters for contributions between $10 and $175. Under this system, a $25 contribution becomes $175; $100 becomes $700; $175 becomes $1,225.

For Antonacci Donors, A Public Match Chart

How far does a campaign dollar go for Republican comptroller candidate Bob Antonacci? His campaign has a chart for that.

A fundraising appeal sent from the GOP hopeful’s campaign provides a break down of how the public matching system works in the race, showing how much money a dollar-amount contribution can bring to the candidate’s coffers.

“The Campaign Finance Pilot matching funds program will amplify your voice in the New York State comptroller’s race by SIX times!” the fundraising appeal says. “That means for every dollar you contribute, the state will match it with six!”

The money for the public financing program is coming from the state comptroller’s unclaimed funds pot.

An agreement in 2014-15 state budget created a public financing program for only the state comptroller’s race this year.

Advocates and supporters of public financing, however, were holding out for a broader, statewide program.

Democratic incumbent Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is not participating in the program citing his problems with introducing such a system in the middle of an election cycle.


DiNapoli On The ‘Democratic Team’

Democratic Comptroller Tom DiNapoli wouldn’t say if he expects Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s endorsement this year for his latest re-election effort, but highlighted his spot on the “Democratic team” of statewide candidates.

“I’m looking for the endorsement of all of the people of the state of New York who are going to be voting,” DiNapoli said earlier today at a breakfast before the start of the first day of the Democratic convention in Suffolk County.

DiNapoli was not endorsed by Cuomo in 2010, but the then-attorney general did throw Cuomo as bone of sorts as he cleared him of any wrongdoing in a massive pay-to-play pension fund scandal that resulted in the arrest of his predecessor, Alan Hevesi.

DiNapoli, who has clashed with the governor on budget and auditing issues over the last 3-1/2 years, said he is endorsing the full slate of statewide candidates (including the governor, himself, presumably).

Indeed, DiNapoli has worked closely with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who has also differed with Cuomo on several issues including how to spend money gained from the JPMorgan settlement.

“I’m proud running on the Democratic team, I’m supporting the entire Democratic team, I wish everyone on the team was doing the same thing, but you’ll have to ask him,” DiNapoli said.

DiNapoli, who was re-nominated by the party earlier today, acknowledged his posture on budget issues has “ruffled feathers.”

“The comptroller is supposed to be an independent office, an independent voice. we’ve protected that role very, very jealously even if it’s ruffled feathers,” DiNapoli said. “At the end of the day, this is a Democratic team.”

DiNapoli: Revenue In April Lower Than A Year Ago

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli on Friday released an April cash report that found revenue was $1 billion lower than last year — a 17 percent decline.

However, it’s not all bad news.

The revenue flowing into the state’s coffers was $86.8 million higher than estimates included in the state Division of Budget’s financial plan released this month, the cash-flow report found.

“The state ended the last fiscal year in a strong position, but April income tax collections were substantially lower than anticipated,” DiNapoli said. “The Division of the Budget has released a Financial Plan that responds to the April shortfall. The recent tax collections are another indication that the economy remains unpredictable and we need to be cautious as we look ahead to the remainder of the fiscal year. My office will be releasing a detailed analysis of the Financial Plan in the coming weeks.”

When it comes to receipts from the personal income tax, known as the PIT in state government parlance, revenue was almost 20 percent lower in April than a year ago.

The state’s fiscal year runs from Arpil 1 through March 31.

Update: An earlier version of this post included the incorrect report. Here is the correct version.

April 2014 by Nick Reisman

DiNapoli On The ‘Ironies’ Of Public Financing (Updated)

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli on Monday noted it was rather ironic that his Republican opponent — Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci — has agreed to participate in a public financing system while he is declining.

“The ironies of New York state politics in 2014,” DiNapoli said of the situation in an interview on The Capitol Pressroom.

The 2014-15 state budget includes a system of public financing for the state comptroller’s race only this year, a compromise that has angered advocates for public financing who believe the agreement should have been more comprehensive.

DiNapoli, too, derided the deal for being introduced in the middle of an election cycle. He has already raised about $2 million for his re-election.

The participation of Antonacci, who launched his candidacy last week, in the public financing program says hasn’t swayed him on its merits.

“It hasn’t changed my opinion,” DiNapoli said.

He added the current comptroller-only agreement is “half baked and doesn’t make any sense.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, under pressure from the political left in New York, most notably the Working Families Party, is pushing Senate Republicans to agree to a broader public financing program this spring.

DiNapoli said he hopes lawmakers and Cuomo “getit done right — comprehensive public financing reform” that covers all statewide elected offices.

Update: Onondaga County Republican Chairman Tom Dadey responded.

“Tom DiNapoli was appointed seven years ago by Speaker Silver and his cronies in the State Legislature, and he’s now just realizing that his office should be fighting Albany corruption? That sounds like an election year ploy by an Albany politician faced with a difficult re-election challenge. It’s time to put a Comptroller in the Comptroller’s office who will stand up for hardworking taxpayers, fight corruption and has the experience and qualifications to do the job.”