Thursday, December 10, 2009

Picking Daisies at the Comptroller's Office

"Scheduled Payments May Soon Exceed Available Dollars"

-Statement by the Office of the State Comptroller (12-10-09)

The Chalkboard wrote previously that Governor David Paterson has ordered the state Budget Division to delay state aid payments to school districts and localities, based on a state cash crunch that is coming to a head this month. I believe the state should not shortchange localities what it promised this year, and the state, rather than localities, should be borrowing short-term to meet its obligations budgeted this year.

That said, is New York State really short on cash to pay its bills?

Who better to ask than the Office of the State Comptroller, the state's independent fiscal watchdog? Well, Thomas DiNapoli, who holds this office, has spoken: "While the checkbook has enough it [sic] to cover the bills we have to pay today, the state's cash flow is so tight that might not be the case tomorrow" (emphasis mine). Comptroller DiNapoli's full statement on Thursday is here.

Thanks for that authoritative precision, Mr. DiNapoli. Like, we "might not" pay the bills tomorrow; we "may" soon run out of money to pay bills. Then, again, that also could mean we "might" have enough for tomorrow and "may" be able to pay all the bills!

Anyone home in the Comptroller's Office? I could have said the same things by picking a daisy -- maybe, maybe not. Mr. DiNapoli's statement also said these cash "updates" are part of his "on-going effort to increase fiscal transparency." Swell.

With this guidance, one can understand the Governor taking no chances and slowing down on state spending, at least until there is a more informed certainty on the cash situation from the experts. It doesn't appear he's getting much to work with from the Comptroller's office.

Peter Murphy
for The Chalkboard

P.S.: Maybe it's not such a surprise that former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, with Gov. Paterson's backing, is eyeing the Comptroller job in next year's election, as reported in Thursday's New York Post (here).


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