State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli answers a question posed at a breakfast event held Monday May 20 at the Queensbury Hotel in Glens Falls. Although expressing positivism that an economic rebound was underway, DiNapoli warned that New York State and its municipalities were likely to experience continued financial stresses. He also spoke of a new initiative to reinvest in local businesses — in order to spur job growth within the state.
While the state’s economy is rebounding from the recent deep economic recession, the Adirondack region has continuing challenges, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli told area leaders Monday during a visit to Glens Falls.
DiNapoli gave a speech and answered questions at a breakfast held May 19 at the Queensbury Hotel in Glens Falls. About 90 local politicians, entrepreneurs and economic development officials attended the event, hosted by the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce.
New York State as a whole, he said, is gradually climbing back out of the recession, he said.
“We’re on the road to recovery — but we’re not moving forward like gangbusters — we’re not generating the kind of job growth we’d like to see.”
DiNapoli noted the Glens Falls metropolitan region in March had an unemployment rate of 8.3 percent, equal to the state’s level — but unlike the entire state, the Glens Falls area has only recovered 25 percent of the jobs it lost during the recession. The state had a net increase of 350,000 jobs over the past three years, he said.
While job growth has been relatively strong overall in the state, it’s been primarily with businesses and industry, and not in government or schools, which have experienced substantial downsizing, he said.
Region faces special problems
Despite the statewide economic rebound, a variety of issues are exerting financial stress to municipalities, residents and businesses in the Adirondacks, he said.
“There are unique challenges in this part of the state including environmental issues,” he said. noting how a balance was necessary between economic development and environmental protection.
In addition, the population in the Adirondack Park is declining, and the Park residents remaining are aging and requiring more services, at a time government revenue is declining, he said.
“Each part of the state has its own challenges,” he continued.
However, things are looking up in Warren County, he said, noting that retail sales are up, resulting in a 2.6 percent increase in sales tax revenue for 2012.
Fiscal pressures on state, county and local governments are bound to continue, DiNapoli predicted, noting that federal aid has been cut while costs are increasing. “Financial stress is not a passing phase,” he remarked, adding how no real progress has been made on mandate relief. “Difficult choices on spending will continue.”
‘Fiscal Stress’ system ramping up
DiNapoli said his agency is launching a research and outreach program that analyzes municipalities’ financial data and identifies those at risk of bankruptcy or default.
This fiscal stress monitoring system, he said, would provide an early warning of substantial financial problems he said, noting the Comptroller’s office will be publishing the list.
“This is not meant to be finger-pointing, but to inform and engage the local taxpayers and citizens so they can provide more thoughtful input,” he said.
Pension cash to boost NY enterprises
DiNapoli noted that his office had established the In-state Private Equity Program to steer investment money from the state pension fund to help local businesses either start up or expand and prosper — or assist out of-state businesses in moving to New York State.
This program, he said, has already resulted in $641 million being invested to date in 246 companies across the state, including $22 million for Navilyst (recently acquired by Angio-Dynamics) in Glens Falls, he said.
“We’re trying to recycle state pension fund dollars right back into the state’s economy,” he said.
DiNapoli: ‘claim your cash’
Also, DiNapoli touted his agency’s program of publishing names of those due unclaimed funds held by the sate — a total of $12 billion belonging to individuals and businesses, culled from checks left uncashed from as long ago as 1940.
To make his point, DiNapoli hauled out three giant checks to local entities reflecting their balances existing now in his office’s Unclaimed Funds depository.
He presented a check of $200 to the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce represented by Peter Aust, ARCC President; $651.83 to the Glens Falls National Bank represented by its president, Thomas Murphy, and $532 to the City of Glens Falls — with Sen. Little accepting the check.
Later, Queensbury Supervisor Ron Montesi asked DiNapoli about whether his office tracked how much state Lottery revenue actually bankrolled public education, its original stated purpose.
Answering for DiNapoli, Sen. Little said that sum was $3.4 billion for 2012.
DiNapoli said that state Lottery revenue was deposited in the state General Fund, out of which state Aid for education was drawn.
“It’s an accounting mechanism,” he said.
DiNapoli was also asked if a dollar value had been calculated reflecting the actual benefits stemming from the tax breaks and incentives awarded Global Foundries.
“I can’t give you hard numbers, but economic development experts saw it as a great opportunity,” he said about the multi-billion chip-fabrication development based in Malta, and the spin-off high technology industries attracted to the Capital Region. “Their objectives are now being fulfilled in a positive way.”
After DiNapoli’s 90-minute presentation, Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Kevin Geraghty praised the state Comptroller for his outreach to Warren County.
“DiNapoli is an effective advocate for local communities, and showing up here is a good thing for the region,” Geraghty said.
State Assemblyman Dan Stec of Queensbury said he supported DiNapoli’s commitment to reinvesting pension fund cash into in-state businesses.
“Investing in New York businesses benefits the state’s economy and creates jobs,” he said, adding that any area business with a qualifying need should contact him or Sen. Little as well as DiNapoli for potential assistance. “It’s a great idea and a win-win situation.”