Opinion: St. Lawrence County legislator candidate cites financial experience
To the Editor:
Governor Cuomo claimed on April 14 “I’m broke…I don’t have two nickels to rub together”, basically saying that NY is broke and if it doesn’t get some assistance painful cuts are in order. Back on July 12, 2018 the Associated Press reported that NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli concluded that “if current spending levels continue, the state’s expenditures will outpace revenues within three years.” That doesn’t take into account any unforeseen events like an economic downturn.While our state government would like to blame the financial woes on Covid 19, financial issues have been building since Mr. DiNapoli issued his warning 2 years ago. In 2018, New York’s general fund reported a surplus of $2.4billion and a fund balance of $4.7billion. By 2019 there was a deficit in the general fund leading to a decrease in fund balance of $1.3billion and total debt increased by almost $3billion as well.
This was all happening in a good economic environment. As Mr. DiNapoli warned, NY was on an unsustainable path. \Enter the Covid 19 pandemic and things get ugly. Now our Governor is looking to blame someone or something. While the pandemic has certainly put unforeseen hardships on all states, NY was not at all prepared for this. Even with a fund balance at 2018 levels of $4.7 billion, compared to a budget of $170+ billion it’s simply not enough of a financial cushion.
New York State’s 2021 budget includes a $178 billion spending plan, up 2.6% from last year. However, the state’s portion of this spending plan is down $10 billion. Federal aid of $5.1 billion and borrowing of $4.9 billion make up the difference. Wait a minute, you mean the federal government has already given NYS some aid? And there’s more: the Federal Reserve, as of April 2020, announced they would buy up to $500 billion in municipal debt.
What does that mean? It means that states can borrow more easily if they need to. The Federal Reserve has never done this before. While it is true more may be needed, NY did not prepare for any of this. This is in stark contrast to our county. While I served as county legislator, the county rebuilt its fund balance from a negative number to over $20 million, about 10% of spending. NY’s fund balance in 2018 was about 2% of spending.
As the old saying goes about “blank” flowing downhill, I fear NY’s woes will be borne by the better-prepared counties like ours. St. Lawrence County, one of the poorest counties in NY, managed to build its fund balance to a more appropriate level. Why can’t the state of NY, with all its vast resources, do the same?
I am running again for county legislator as I think my expertise in financial matters may be useful. Our county management and employees have done a fantastic job building the financial cushion; let’s make sure the state’s shortcomings don’t take it all away.
I would appreciate your vote on November 3rd.
St. Lawrence County legislator candidate