State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said the state government’s financial condition continues to improve, but he’s worried about mounting debt and a lack of transparency in spending under the new state budget.
DiNapoli said state reserves were strengthened by $316 million under the state budget adopted April 1, shortly after the deadline.
But “areas of concern include the adequacy of statutory language to ensure settlement monies will be spent as intended,” said the Great Neck Plaza Democrat.
“The budget also includes billions of dollars in new debt and lump sum appropriations for the executive and Legislature to use at their discretion, leading to questions about transparency and accountability,” DiNapoli said in his budget report this week.
DiNapoli said the 2015-16 budget totals $150.3 billion, slightly more than Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders had said. DiNapoli said that’s an increase of $7.3 billion in spending which includes federal funds, or a 5.1 percent increase in spending over the fiscal year that ended March 31.
Cuomo and legislative leaders, however, note that the increase in state spending alone has again been kept to less than 2 percent.
DiNapoli said the planned spending of a $6 billion windfall from enforcement actions against banks isn’t adequately detailed in the budget.
“There is no comprehensive or standardized mechanism to track the spending of settlement dollars,” DiNapoli said in his analysis.
DiNapoli said that despite the windfall, debt also grows under the new state budget. He said he budget includes $7.4 billion in new and increased borrowing, which he said is a 6.4 percent increase. He said that final debt figure is also 40 percent more than Cuomo proposed in his executive budget in January.
“We agree that the state’s fiscal condition, which is already strong, continues to improve,” said Cuomo’s budget spokesman, Morris Peters. “A complete picture would show that state debt has actually declined for three consecutive years for the first time since at least World War II, and that our debt to personal income ratio is at its lowest level in decades.”