PLATTSBURGH - The state's economy is down, but not necessarily out, according to State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
The state comptroller gave an overview of New York's economic situation during an economic roundtable discussion hosted by the Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce July 11.
During his discussion, DiNapoli described the state's fiscal year - which began April 1 - as both a "time of great challenge" and "crisis." First-quarter revenues for the months of April and May were down 40 percent compared to last year, which he contributed to the national recession, loss of revenue on Wall Street and the state's growing unemployment situation.
Though there has been "a significant drop-off in revenue coming to the state," said DiNapoli, New York is "getting through the early part of the fiscal year because spending is also down."
"We're still off from the financial plan, but it reinforces what we've said from the beginning that it is absolutely crucial that we carefully monitor revenue and spending and do the best we can to manage spending more effectively, especially in view of the continued revenue decline," said the state comptroller.
Though not yet finalized, a preliminary look at figures for the month of June - which DiNapoli said will be more indicative of what lies ahead for the fiscal year - show another down month for revenue.
"It's certainly not going to be higher; it's not going to be a reverse of a trend of the first two months," admitted DiNapoli. "The question is going to be how much of a decline in terms of being off the financial plan it will be."
"We're going to be in a tough situation from a revenue perspective," he added.
The state's annual budget hasn't helped matters either, according to DiNapoli, who said the budget was based on "the hopeful notion the economy is going to recover more quickly than most of the experts seem to be predicting."
That, paired with a large percentage of this year's anticipated revenue being banked on federal stimulus funding, concerns the state comptroller.
"We've got about $11 billion of the state budget based on revenues that are either nonrecurring or temporary in nature," said DiNapoli. "That's problematic; that's an issue and a concern."
Though the nation finds itself in the middle of an economic crisis, DiNapoli said it's also an opportunity for state leaders to think differently and be more frugal in government spending.
"I think that would've made a little more sense than taking the temporary benefit of the federal stimulus money on those tax increases and basically deferring to the future some of those tough choices on spending that we still need to make," said DiNapoli. "Those choices aren't going to go away. They've just been delayed to another time."
Focusing on the North Country, the state comptroller reported approximately half of the more than 5,000 jobs gained in the region between 2003 and 2008, were lost in the first five months of 2009. In addition, the North Country's unemployment rate during those five months averaged 10.2 percent - the highest of any region in the state.
Despite the bad news, there is still hope with the continued expansion of existing businesses and creation of new businesses in the area, said DiNapoli. The recent opening of NovaBus in the town of Plattsburgh and the potential for Laurentian Aerospace Corp. to bring an estimated 200-300 jobs to the North Country are both positive signs, he said.
"The long and short of it is you've got many great things that have been going on for a long period of time, but you're facing some of the challenges we're all facing in New York," said DiNapoli. "We need to not lose sight of progress we've made in recent years."