Tax Collections Decline $300M

The state’s tax collections declined in the fiscal year that ended March 31 by $300 million, according to a year-end cash report released on Wednesday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.

Percentage-wise, the decline is a relatively small one, only 0.4 percent from the previous fiscal year.

And DiNapoli in a statement said the state’s cash position remains relatively strong.

“While personal income tax and consumption tax receipts exceeded the latest projections at the end of the fiscal year, they were more than offset by lower business tax collections,” DiNapoli said. “The state remained in a strong cash position starting the new fiscal year, because of factors including General Fund spending that was well below projections and unspent funds from financial settlements.”

All told, the state’s receipts from the fiscal year hit $156.4 billion, a 2 percent increase from the previous year. The received an 8 percent boost in federal aid during 2016-17 fiscal year.

DiNapoli And Church Of England Pressure Exxon On Climate Change

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and the Church of England are teaming up to pressure ExxonMobil to reveal how it expects its business across the globe will be impacted by efforts to combat climate change.

DiNapoli is once again leveraging the state’s pension fund’s investment in a company to act as an activist investor in order to produce change in how a company functions.

“ExxonMobil has said it supports the Paris Agreement, but those are empty words unless the company backs them up with action,” DiNapoli said in a statement.

“Exxon’s business is extremely vulnerable to changes in climate regulation and consumer demand. Unlike its peers that have agreed to analyze how the effort to limit global warming impacts their portfolio and share those results with investors, Exxon refuses to account for the goals of the Paris Agreement. Irrespective of the current administration’s stance on climate change, countries around the world are moving ahead with policies that will limit greenhouse gas emissions and will likely impact the market for ExxonMobil’s products. ExxonMobil puts itself and its long-term investors at risk by failing to acknowledge this reality.”

DiNapoli’s office and the Church of England have co-filed the proposal with other company investors, including the New York City Retirement Systems and CalPERS.

DiNapoli is not the only state elected official to set Exxon in his sights. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been embroiled in a legal battle over the company’s climate change claims and whether it understated its impact.

DiNapoli: If Economic Development Programs Don’t Work, Maybe Pull The Plug

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli in a radio interview on Wednesday questioned why the state continues to spend heavily on economic development programs that have in some cases yielded few gains.

DiNapoli, interview on Fred Dicker’s Talk-1300 radio show, was responding to a question over the 2017-18 state budget removing language that would require reporting for the START-UP NY program, an omission state officials insist was accidental.

“If the program is not working, maybe we don’t need that program,” DiNapoli said, adding, “We don’t have a bottomless pit of money. I do think it’s a fair question to say are there across the board ways this money would be better spent.”

START-UP NY in particular has come under scrutiny for its job creation figures, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration says is picking up after being in place for the last several years. The program created 757 total jobs in 2016, according to a report released by the Empire State Development Corp. earlier in this month.

DiNapoli, meanwhile, was critical of the budget for not included reforms he believes are necessary for reforming how government contracts are doled out, which were proposed in the wake of a dozen arrests stemming from bid rigging of economic development programs.

“People feel it’s not an honest process, that it’s not a level playing field,” he said.

Considered to have a frosty relationship with Cuomo, DiNapoli plans to run for re-election, he said, and not challenge the governor in a Democratic primary.

“The secret is I’ve got the best job in state government and I’m holding on to it,” DiNapoli said.

He added he doesn’t expect Cuomo to face a Democratic primary challenge as he seeks a third term next year.

“He’s in a very strong position,” DiNapoli said. “I don’t see anyone challenging him for the nomination.”

Comptroller Blocks $21.3M In Questionable Tax Refunds

The state comptroller’s office has blocked the payment of $21.3 million in tax refunds that were deemed either questionable or fraudulent, his office on Monday announced.

The money is a fraction of the $4.4 billion Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office has paid out to date for some 4.6 million state refunds. In the coming days, $466 million is expected to be paid out for 471,000 refunds.

“My auditors are committed to safeguarding the funds of honest New Yorkers,” DiNapoli said. “We’ll stay one step ahead of the schemes used by tax cheats, and look to ensure only legitimate refunds are paid.”

Most of the questionable refunds that were stopped had been filed by taxpayers who claimed refundable credits that was based on incorrect information such as inflated or fraudulent dependents or understated income.

There has also been $2.2 million in refunds linked to tax preparers who filed fraudulent returns, DiNapoli’s office said.

DiNapoli: Budget Misses Procurement Reform

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli in a statement on Monday said the budget lacked “needed reforms” to the state’s procurement process that had been sought in the wake of the arrests of a half dozen people last year, including a top former aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“The budget does not include needed reforms to the state’s procurement practices to better ensure spending accountability and transparency,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “Hopefully before the end of session, the procurement reforms my office has advanced will be addressed.”

The procurement changes — including a “database of deals” backed by good-government groups and independent oversight of contracting — had been sought following the arrests of Joe Percocco, a longtime confidant of the governor’s, as well as former SUNY Polytechnic president Alain Kaloyeros and prominent upstate developers, accused of bribery and rigging bids.

Percoco’s case is set to go to trial later this year.

DiNapoli said more information is needed to address concerns raised during the budget talks, such as potential cuts to federal aid, a premise that drove the governor to successfully receive power over making changes to the budget after it is approved.

“With heightened risks to federal aid, a clear understanding of the impact of spending, revenue and policy decisions in this budget is especially essential,” DiNapoli said. “My office will provide more detailed analysis of the enacted budget in the coming weeks.”

Report: IDA Tax Exemptions Rise

The net tax exemptions provided by Industrial Development Agencies grew 10 percent in 2015 up to $695 million, according to a report released Monday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

“New York’s IDAs are tasked with generating economic development and job creation, but it can be difficult for taxpayers to follow the costs and benefits of these activities,” DiNapoli said. “Our annual report tracks IDA performance and shows the costs associated with their decisions. Now, because of recent reforms requiring more disclosure, taxpayers will have even more information to evaluate the cost and impact of economic development activities taking place in their own backyards.”

The report found the state’s 109 active IDAs provided $1.2 billion in tax exemptions in 2015, partially offset by $500 million in payments in lieu of taxes, leaving the net exemptions at $695 million.

The estimated job growth, meanwhile, slowed and the estimated cost per job increased, the report found. All told, IDA projects reported a total of 608,825 full-time jobs, an increase of 224,734 jobs over the lifteim of these projects.

All together, it amounted to $2,326 per job gained, the report found. Previously, the cost per job stood at $1,882.

Ida Performance by Nick Reisman on Scribd

DiNapoli: Trump Budget ‘Will Hurt New Yorkers’

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli on Thursday blasted the proposed budget by President Donald Trump’s administration which takes a knife to discretionary spending programs and government agencies.

In a statement, DiNapoli said the proposed cuts will have a negative impact on New York, but he also wants more information on how spending would be allocated.

“The President’s budget blueprint threatens funding for vital services including housing assistance, environmental protection, anti-poverty programs and more,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “It provides little specific information regarding the impact of broadly proposed cuts, but it is clear this budget will hurt New Yorkers. I urge the Administration to provide the details as soon as possible so New Yorkers and all Americans can have a clear understanding of the ramifications if these proposals become law.”

The federal budget process is driven by Congress, not the president, and a White House budget is considered an aspirational document in large part. But the agenda laid out by the Trump administration has still worried some, including advocates for the art and public broadcasting, which would be on the chopping block.

DiNapoli: Wall Street Profits And Bonuses Are Up

Profits in the state’s financial sector increased by 21 percent last year, while bonuses rose slightly by 1 percent, according to a report issued Wednesday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

“Wall Street profits bounced back strongly in 2016. Lower costs more than made up for the continued decline in revenues,” DiNapoli said. “Bonuses were up only slightly in New York City as the industry held the line on compensation. The jump in profitability is good news since the industry generates a significant amount of tax revenue for both the state and city budgets.”

Wall Street profitability totaled $17.3 billion last year, its highest level since 2012 and reversing a three-year decline in profits.

The boom is attributed in part to cost-cutting by financial firms and lower non-compensation expenses, including legal settlements.

Meanwhile, bonuses increased, albeit by only 1 percent, to $138,210 on average.

The bonus pool in New York City increased more, by 2 percent, during the December to March bonus pool.

Wall Street profits are key for New York’s coffers as revenue from the financial industry is a key driver of the state budget.

Audit Stymied By Lack Of Access To Justice Center Information

An audit released Tuesday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office found the Justice Center for the Protection of People With Special Needs blocked efforts to gain access to incident reports auditors were attempting to gain access to in order to conduct the report.

The Justice Center was created in 2012 in order to provide protections to people with developmental disabilities and special needs.

The audit by the comptroller’s office was hinder, in part, by Justice Center officials insisting state law prohibits the disclosure of reporting information on cases that have not be substantiated.

That made it difficult for auditors to perform their due diligence, DiNapoli’s office said, pointing to more than 70 percent of individual incidents that were reported in a database, including those not yet completed or where allegations were considered unfounded.

In a statement, DiNapoli said the lack of information makes it difficult to assess how effective the Justice Center has been for the state’s most vulnerable.

“New York created a new agency to protect people with disabilities, addictions and mental illness from individuals who would harm them. The Justice Center faced the difficult task of sorting through a system troubled with delays, questionable follow up and other problems,” DiNapoli said.

“Even though the Justice Center is over three years old, we don’t know how effectively it is operating or whether changes are needed. This isn’t about finger-pointing if some of the old system’s problems still exist. It is about keeping New York’s most vulnerable people safe and seeing what progress has been made and how the system can be improved.”

At the same time, however, the audit find incidents in which workers were supposed to be included an exclusive list were left off and reports that were substantiated were lacking in detail.

The Justice Center released its own, lengthy response to the audit, saying the errors in its database were an “aberration” and the agency was blocked by law from releasing the information.

“Examining the validity of the Justice Center’s decision to unsubstantiate allegations of abuse or neglect would be an inappropriate audit objective as OSC does not have the legal expertise to make such an assessment,” Executive Deputy Director Jay Kiyonaga wrote.

DiNapoli: Tax Collections Down 1 Percent

Tax collections in January fell by $658.3 million over the same period last year, a 1 percent decline, according to Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.

Still, year-to-date tax revenue overall is slightly higher — some $167.9 million — than the most recent projections for the third quarter, the cash report released on Thursday found.

“State tax collections are slightly above Executive Budget projections,” DiNapoli said. “With the budget process well underway, and less than two months left in the fiscal year, we’re watching closely to see if revenues meet the Division of the Budget’s projected growth.”

There has been an increase in spending than initially projected, due in large part to the $2.1 billion of federal payments to the Essential Plan Program, as well as federal spending for Medicaid, also up by $2 billion.