State comptroller Tom DiNapoli on Wednesday railed against Gov. David Paterson's proposal to delay certain income tax refunds, calling that decision a ''short-term, gimmicky'' fix.
''Delaying refunds is just a short-term, gimmicky response to the state's cash flow problems,'' DiNapoli said in a speech he gave Wednesday morning at The Resource Center in Celoron. ''Sure, we're having a tough time with cash flow, but it seems to me that of all the different options, proposing that the state hold back money that belongs to New Yorkers is the least logical choice.''
Paterson first proposed the idea earlier this month, calling it a ''move necessary'' to close the $8.2 billion budget gap the state now faces.
Thomas DiNapoli, New York state comptroller, is pictured speaking Wednesday at The Resource Center.
P-J?photo by Kristen
His idea means about $500 million - out of a $1.75 billion pot of money - earmarked for refunds would be held back.
DiNapoli isn't the only one who doesn't like the idea; on Tuesday, the state Senate passed a nonbinding resolution against it.
''This really gets back to the issue of putting a budget together that will hold (up),'' DiNapoli said. ''People are hurting. This is their money and I don't think the state should delay (giving it to them) unnecessarily.''
The governor's proposal underscores the bigger problem, DiNapoli said - the state government's inability to ''put together a solid budget.''
''As difficult as it's going to be, the governor and the Legislature need to put together a budget for the coming fiscal year that will hold together as opposed to a budget that's based on false promises,'' he said. ''With that kind of a budget, you get three months into it and you're in crisis mode because it's not holding up and you've got to hold back payments to schools and cities. We can't be in that crisis mode year after year. It's symptomatic of a larger problem that has got to be addressed.''
DiNapoli pointed to December when, for the first time in history, the state's general fund ended a month in the red by $577 million. Even so, state lawmakers dramatically increased spending. According to DiNapoli's office, spending ballooned by $10.4 billion for the state's current fiscal year, which ends on March 31.
''We got through December in terms of cash flow,'' DiNapoli said. ''Lucky for us, January and February are typically easier months for the state in terms of spending. But March is a big month for payments and there's a real concern that some of December's cash flow problems are going to come back and bite us in March.''
Even so, DiNapoli said, he approaches the state's problems with ''a great sense of optimism.''
''Are we going through a crisis time? Absolutely,'' he said. ''But this is an opportunity to look at issues in a different way and maybe dust off some old ideas that didn't get full attention. The challenge for us is how we can, under the pressure of these times, take advantage of the situation and make better, more well-informed choices and come out on the other side stronger.''