The New York state comptroller is the state’s accountant.
The comptroller is responsible for administering the state and local retirement system, maintaining the state accounting system, administering the state’s $15 billion payroll and issuing reports and audits on state agencies and local governments, right down to the local fire station.
The comptroller is not necessarily the person you want to invite to your next cocktail party, but it is an extremely important position in keeping the state economically healthy and on track.
New York has had Democrat Tom DiNapoli in that role since 2007 when, as a member of the Assembly from Long Island, he was appointed comptroller after Alan Hevesi resigned amid a scandal.
DiNapoli, who met with The Post-Star editorial board in April, has restored credibility and trust in the office, and he may be the only person in the state willing to stand up to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
That got our attention.
Bob Antonacci was a late entry for the Republicans. He has served as the Onondaga County comptroller since 2007, and he pointed out when he visited the editorial board in October, he is a certified public accountant.
Antonacci has been outgunned from the start in this race, but that has allowed him to take on any and all issues facing the state, even if they have nothing to do with the comptroller’s office.
He said he hoped to shine a light on the real problems in New York. He has done an admirable job in this regard.
As a side note, the Legislature selected the comptroller’s race as a pilot program for campaign finance reform this year. Or was that the governor just trying to show DiNapoli who was boss? The experiment called for candidates to raise $200,000, with $2,000 of that coming in contributions between $10 and $75 from New York residents.
While Antonacci, with almost no campaign war chest, embraced the idea, DiNapoli decided to opt out, even though he campaigned on campaign finance reform four years ago. It might have something to do with the $2 million he had
in his campaign fund bank account. DiNapoli said during the only debate at Baruch College that the program was implemented too late in the election cycle to be effective.
Antonacci has still not raised the $200,000 to get matching funds as the campaign winds down.
Our meeting with Antonacci was a refreshing respite from the political dance we too often see from candidates.
The Syracuse Republican got our attention with his take that consolidation of schools and municipalities — a Cuomo administration favorite and something we have endorsed repeatedly — was not the answer for local governments because mandatory mediation guidelines would most likely lead to higher salaries for employees. It was something we had not previously considered.
Antonacci lost some credibility when he promised he would review every check the state writes. We appreciated the earnestness, but we doubt there are enough hours in the day to accomplish that task.
Antonacci railed that the state needed to put an end to state mandates such as the Triborough Amendment and prevailing wage, but of course these are legislative issues. The state comptroller would have little say here.
He also said DiNapoli’s return on investment for the pension system is not what it should be, and that the state of New York is still just about last in every economic category.
Antonacci believes New York should move toward a defined benefit plan — like the 401(k) plans commonly used in the private sector — but DiNapoli believes that would hurt working New Yorkers.
DiNapoli grabbed headlines several times during the course of the year — a rarity for a comptroller — by criticizing the governor on his budget and being skeptical of projected budget surpluses. He basically told the governor things under his watch are not as good as he says they are.
When DiNapoli visited he complained the Legislature and the public in general was not concerned enough about the state nearing its debt limit. He admitted it is not a sexy issue for the general public.
We love the comptroller’s transparency and his use of Saturday morning email blasts to alert the press and public about the most recent audits conducted by his office. It is a sort of valentine to financial nerds that more citizens should pay attention to.
DiNapoli also said the pension fund return has been improving, but he said that before the stock market volatility in October.
DiNapoli has also been praised for his system that warns municipalities about impending financial stress.
Ultimately, our editorial board felt DiNapoli’s seven years of experience was vital for the state to move forward. We urge voters to return DiNapoli to the office of comptroller so he can continue to keep the governor on his toes.
He may be the only one who dares.
Local editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star’s editorial board, which consists of Publisher Terry Coomes, Controller/Operations Director Brian Corcoran, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle and citizen representative Mike Sundberg.