WBEN NewsRadio 930>Audio & Video on Demand>>NYS Compt. Tom DiNapol- Running for re-election

NYS Compt. Tom DiNapol- Running for re-election

Aug 31, 2014|

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But I wanted to start out because it is that we talk about politics I wanted to start out with one of the statewide races that is attracting attention across New York. Comptroller Tom to Napoli is here he's the incumbent he is a Democrat he is running for reelection and who we're going to be talking a little bit about some of the issues coming up in that campaign. Tom thanks for being with us. David great to be with you I will I won't be as insightful look at -- but I'll try to hold up but my end of the -- as much as I kept. No one -- a client on the program. And talk to me a little bit about what you see as the number one. Issue facing either your office or facing this campaign this race what do you have to do that's left on done. Well that you know there's so much that our offices responsible for nor -- -- say that I have. The greatest job in in state government but I also on the job and people probably. Understand the least you know. Comptroller. People are -- you spelled out how you pronounce those and many people don't realize that it is. An elective office but we are so much a Portland up the -- of keeping your movement forward so. As we continue to navigate through a tough economic time and obviously a tough budget time although we're better ship that we've been. I think he'd be the work of the focuses more important than ever whether it is you're talking about state operations in terms of processing and approving contracts and everything related that the state payroll state payments. Managing the state pension fund which is obviously -- very important responsibility one that is probably what we we are. Best known for in terms of what what what people read about the whole accountability agenda how would taxpayer money being spent. Is it being wasted. At the state level local government level the work we do well -- it's important that record so. My perspective the simple I think we're doing. A great job. But there's still more to do to get New York to be in the place would all like it to be at the controls -- as the key part of it. So I wanna continue to be -- engaged in the process of making New York the greatest stated they. Well let's talk a little bit more about the function in some ways you're the guy that balances the checkbook. But if someone else is writing the checks be at the legislature the governor aren't you just a functionary is there a policy role there do you think. Well you know that's it it's an important question because the offices set up as a as an independent office. And over the years. A number responsibly as have been assigned to the opposite began. Back when when you first became -- state. In the 1790s as the office of of what it can control. And you're right one of the challenges is that we do not that the budget we did not make appropriations that's not our responsibility. But we do it very clear responsibly make sure the money's being spent as intended by the legislature and the governor. And while we do not have a bowl or -- go. In terms of policy. Well we can I think frame policy discussions because the focus is setup to be the least part of the league offices. To not be involved in the database trench warfare that sometimes happens. In the state capital so. We take key issues. And we frame a thoughtful discussion that we hope will -- -- formal policy. Debate -- helpful way for instance. We we had a report earlier this year and gaming in in in here a lot of discussion about that was that you know the advent of casino gambling being in those states. We get a report on. The issue of affordable housing and how is that impacting. Quote here that we get an issue on asthma rates -- You know while these policy papers white papers if you will. Don't have the the the the the same power let's say as a governor signing a law or legislators -- using a piece of legislation. I do think we can help to rain policy discussions in the in the -- -- they get with the perspective of long term view which is what the -- possible. Along those lines earlier this week you came out with a study basically -- in the amount of overtime. That the state is incurring talk about what you found there. Yeah again that's an example of of of dumping. Let debate you know brought you know -- users perspective of the other issues but certainly. And very controller kind of rolled -- look at a -- area. Like over time to do it as we do it on a periodic basis so that's the one -- snapshot is it gives us an opportunity to look at trends. To see where the costs are what agencies are are are are doing in terms of control over time. And a -- and frankly you know this for the -- to be awake up call -- -- over time. On track at the rate we're going -- to the count the years. To exceed last few overtime costs which was. And it start number high number that we think over time -- of the current patterns continue. Can exceed 640 million dollars so the concern there is an obvious what overtime -- the premium course it is a course that you can. Worked to control in terms of work schedules in terms of staffing levels. I I have a concern obviously from the point of view of the pension fund. -- people to talk about the issue you pension padding their pension spiking people get a lot of overtime as Washington later. Years of their working career and then they end up with a with a higher pension -- an affect the legacy cost. So you know one way to deal with that issue of course is to make sure that that you don't have access -- over time so. We're concerned I'm concerned agencies and relying too much and over time it it is not a good. Indications. That management if we're exceeding over time course. Year old the year and there are some agencies that always end up on the list of of high over time. Perhaps a warning to be done to look at different levels they are there some other agencies that don't have a long history but tax and finance for example. Had a very high level of overtime raises some questions as to what's going on there so. You know the life of its terms of these agencies that the agency had. To figure out into responsible we will continue to attract the area of the business that is the premium cost the one that I think could be better control. Who are the chronic offenders. Well I don't want you aware of what we we've added. Not surprise in a law enforcement. Yet you haven't -- those that that have to provide. 24/7 coverage because -- it by -- of the year department of corrections the -- -- you -- -- understood. All of them that the help of the people with developmental disabilities so that Europe is -- above. Covering the president having the mental health facility is you know the the facilities that that are taking care of those development disabilities they can't not have coverage. Well you know the question is that if they continue to be showing -- in in you know in the high numbers. Is there an inadequate staffing level and then in the long run might be smarter. To address staffing levels rather than always rely on overtime. Because especially you know given the work that many of these employees do in those institutional settings. What impact is that is there on the quality of the work they're performing. If you have employed -- have to put in many many hours of overtime so. That's been you know kind of going concern we've had a terms of those those agencies have an affair with a look at trends. Some agencies have gone down Department of Labor. Financial services they they have less overtime so against that to be a management tool and there and it's meant for the agency heads to utilize. As a more effective way for them to him what personal core. As long as they have budgeted for this extra overtime what's wrong with high overtime levels. Well again -- I think you have the look. It took the lead the impact on the quality of the work that that being delivered. If if someone is having to work many extra hours what does that do to their productivity. And you know again from the pension perspective. If if if if -- overtime cost over a long period of time. Have an impact on an increase in the pension there's a legacy. Caught the impact that that happens many years down the road in front for a full lifetime of that. Person -- that becomes the retirees that -- today. A higher pension because of the significant accumulation over so I think that most of the reasons to keep continue to be concerned about the typical. The controller does administer the state pensions and I wanna ask a little bit about that. And in the past couple years under your administration. Have towns and villages municipalities. People but basically pay into it. Have had to pay more. The costs of keeping it afloat rising. Well you know let let let let's take the because stark perspective the court we're going down and then we have. A little as -- little -- all the global financial crisis. Effective -- but he -- You know Wall Street -- and all the investors or -- uncle opened that your. For your listeners that means that the they had anything in the in the stock market everybody took a big hitter for one -- So in recent you know and in response that we certainly. Have had to increase the contribution rate the charge for a local government report that has an impact of actors actors -- one ultimately that. You know that does that pay the bill. The good defenses we've had sent a -- -- on what we had significant loss on. We have had positive returns each of the years since that last year. We had a fiscal year march 31 every year I'd -- that this year. That a 13% positive return it was a very very good year for keep in mind our long term goal you know all over over the long perspective. As of seven F percent return. So starting last year would -- we we announced the rates around labor they actually you know next week will will have an update on on the -- -- from those who follow cycle. We had a slight decrease from the contribution rate. I do I am anticipating a ticket to had a I felt good we have it. -- -- that the yep that let they have that -- that that there will be yet another decrease in the contribution rate. The rate is still higher than they were before the global financial crisis but. The rates are starting that downward. Trend which which I had anticipated what happened and the good. Do. You know again keeping a -- perspective and that we have to have the fiscal discipline to make sure pension funds are adequately funded why. That's our obligation to more retirees than those who hope to be retirees and number two. We -- state that the getting in trouble crossed the country with their budgets with their finances. Illinois as an example and we believe that Jersey of late with their problems their pension fund. What one of the main reasons -- states often run into difficulties is that they have fully funded pension plan. New York does not have that we we've always had a well funded pension plan we are at about 90% even going to be able to hire that trend is going up as well. 80% funded or better is considered adequately funded we we've we've never been close to that 80% figure in fact we're you know we're at 90% moving up. So that helps the financial underpinnings for the entire state back as you may have may have read. Moody's pitched in the report all upgraded the state. Bond rating that -- as we went to borrow. And cited an improved economy. Budget in better shape at number three. Well funded public pension plan itself is in everyone's interest to have the pension plan to do well funded. And the good news is we are starting to cut the contribution rate two years in the road map that we leave some of the pressures that are municipal school district budgets have been facing. And certainly that's good news for taxpayers and we're being as Smart as we can we'll learn that the strategy we wanna keep that downward trend. We are not totally dependent on what happens in the public market in the stock market but we we do have significant investments there so. You know certainly we want more strongly that that's something we all benefit. And -- -- you just anticipated my next question talk about investment strategy. And anyone and just a basic personal investor when the market goes down they say pretty much stay the course. Do you Jaeger the investments depending on what the markets are doing are you more of a stay the course guy. Yup had to choose between between those two descriptions that they would stay the course that we're being -- -- where. At the end of the first quarter of the new fiscal year world 180 billion dollars or you know with the burglars and -- -- and in the nation -- the world. So when you have a big ship -- you know you can't move it to. We we do have some tactical decisions -- you know the early latest part as part of investing but. We we have an asset allocation it has an emphasis on diversification and we've been trying to. Within the limits which you know by law we can't you to put money anywhere has to be in the high quality safe investments. But we are trying to. Dampen down the the amount of exposure we have some stock market so. We do have you know money in private equity and real estate a little bit and hedge funds. We'll put a real asset. So and an -- a large amount of fixed income. So our our experience has been staying the course you know makes makes the most sense but diversification is key. We are in the process of reviewing our asset allocation we do that once every five years. And they may be thousands. Changes in that that that will then -- our our big ship you know -- for the next five years but we we basically adhere to the asset allocation because over the long. Along all the benefit of the -- out of a pension fund does that. -- we can be patient investor you know we we have more than a way to pay the retirement benefits of those war retired now and those are about to retire. It's for the men and women who -- starting work tomorrow -- they have the Labor Day. It's investing for them pregnant when it by thirty years down the road that you know that we're really focused on so. We we do the long term investment horizons so if we are confident that our asset allocation. You know we we we we can be -- you know what happens with the federal personalized right you know something happens we quickly change we we put our money. And by that we -- the opportunity anyway you know they've -- gains against so. You know pension fund you know because we are perpetual we don't have be as reactive and I think that that it -- straight. These aren't the days of apartheid in South Africa but from time to time there are calls for big pension funds to divest from certain things oil companies for example. Where do we stand overall in terms of divestment have you pulled anything that you don't feel is a good thing to be -- Let them that that that such a a an important question and and I looked at it like when I first became comptroller people. You know -- It was that we know about it that the money and all that -- that we -- very Smart people who would guide me on that but you know what I get called upon what was more than that to investors that is to divest from things. And again the into the area where. You know by the pension fund we need to make money for our. Pensions which is important or retirees toward taxpayers' dole. Now quickly our public entity but we're not in any way. Immune from the fact that that the people have a strong opinions about where we put our money. I think in the point of view that. Better for us to be widely invested and and in the cases where we have. Investments that might -- to questions about. The corporate activity. I try to change that corporate activity through engagement where you digest you basically. You know take what your -- off the table in the Asian leopard so does that mean that we would. Never. Actually not we do we have been one area. Just briefly touched on it. Going back a couple of years there there have been and continues to be for that matter. Great concern about investment in the energy sector in Sudan we had genocide occurring on the ground and and I ran. Whereas you know the comments from the republic regime world it basically. And inciting genocide terms of the comments about the State of Israel. We went to a very. Thoughtful process about the economic impact if we would divest those holdings. What it would need for the funds could substitute. Along in the short is that we did divest. From energy company that. 87 million dollars for the company that was doing the insular and that the incident. And in my -- that's been the only area where we have we we have out and out divested. We do keep very active corporate casually mentioned oil companies. We are very involved with the issue of climate -- global warming. What are energy companies doing to adjusted to it all the concerns that are out there. Particularly with. Although there are engaged in coal what are they doing to change their operations to move to what would be the next generation of energy supplies. If there had been a movement calling for total investment -- and called for more fossil fuel. You know what we we certainly monitors you know although all of that situation at this point. You know I think are better strategies to be invested in the companies in the short run energy companies -- certainly over the profitable for portfolio but also the longer run. By being engaged by be involved with the letter writing which shareholder resolutions we -- hoping to change the the corporate mindset. Preventing this company. You know I think -- be fair to say that if we. All the all our holdings in that oil company tomorrow -- -- can but let's put an automobile companies out of business so I think at this point. Just staying involved and stay engaged. To try to make the point about what. Whether LG BC right to work right climate change or divert from the corporate boards go to war with the political the political spending disclosure that'll work on. That we prefer to put pressure from corporate engagement and -- I hate to ask this on air because it obligates you to to say yes and don't feel that that you have to. And I still wanted to get campaign finance reform and public and I know you're you're contract and be with us for just basically twenty minutes. I hold you another ten after the news -- are all right we'll take a break for commercials will take -- newscast will be back on the other side. Comptroller Tom di Napoli is here it's hard -- on news radio 930 WB yen. It's hard line on news radio 930 that he'd be in good morning this is Dave Tivo. We have with us on the line from the Albany area comptroller Tom -- Napoli Democrat running for re election coming up in November. I want to build a more about the campaign thanks for holding over by the -- glad you're still here. The least of all the reasons to have you on the program not not just because you're running for reelection but because we did have. Your opponent on a couple weeks ago there -- couple things he said that I need to have you addressed. You are running for reelection as a Democrat. The Republican running against you is on and -- county comptroller Bob and to naturally and he has decided to take part. In the governor's pilot program for public financing of campaigns. What I want you to hear what he said about that last week specifically a couple weeks ago specifically involving -- and then just get a little bit of response here's here's his remarks. My understanding is the reason he didn't opt into this is -- came too late and be it was specific only to his race. Is that rationality by. I don't buy it and then he actually help people and I'm not buying it I mean first Somalia and the heat and Albany's a member failure Democrat with a Democrat governor. The Democrat AG the Democrats speaker of the assembly. I mean you tell me you didn't hear the water cooler that they were thinking about doing this program is it really true that he didn't know that this was coming down the pike. It's all the talk about failure to communicate. But -- -- regardless she had plenty of time I mean he's got an apparatus set up on a political machine these -- this season campaign -- he's been around the block. He's an incompetent and mean he needed to lead by example. In this program and he opted out because they gave it to -- and he needs to lead by example. Explain why you're not involved in the public financing pilot project one that your opponent says. You asked for in the first place. Well it's it's a joke the way they did it I mean you know look at as we've seen animals the news report you know this was part of the agreement and the moral commission in which now subject of a federal investigation. You know I think this is the best compromise money you know my opponent that. It is to raise a lot of hoopla about the board commission yet he's become the beneficiary of the way it was and I think that raises some questions right there. You know we need capping at the campaign finance reform in the state called collateral locker -- -- of the legislature voted forward for legislative races and statewide races including public financing. But to -- hit fears and to a four year cycle to change the rules it. Eminently unfair the way it's been sent out -- the threshold are higher than what like I propose the exact address the issue of money for candidates to be transferred from state committees. The administration -- with the state board of elections which had a lot of issues doing their homework does not an independent campaign finance board oversees. This program and I called for so this is not what I have called for any of my opponent. Hasn't qualified yet Ford will -- whether or -- he does over the next few weeks. So you know the use taxpayer money is the in this you know really. -- and excused for a pilot program which it was really meant to not do the border reforms. I I would there was no way I was gonna validate you know that of that approach and you know I I feel will be able to get our message out evil that my participating in the in that program. And because I think it's so poorly thought out I hope that people do not use. The way it was handled this year as a reason not to do. The border kinds of reforms you know that need to be done what and what possibly got estimate like the -- the democratic. Label a great deal. It's the Republicans in the senate is still at the upper in the control on the senate that have always been against campaign. Finance reform including public financing. And -- -- arguably the reason one of the reasons why this is such poor excuse for a for campaign finance reform is because of the Republican Party not being willing. Took two more fully participate in the so I think he he perhaps a little more than. You know then which would lend itself to credibility. Ever so briefly we're almost out of time here. Tell me why half a loaf isn't better than no loaf at all it if campaign finance reform is good. At that can't allow that the crime it's it's it's it's a one time pilot that that that that came in last minute. There was no thoughtful -- you know we had a specific proposals we will not brought to the table to be part of the discussions. It applies just that this race just the one time. Questionable administration late in the game you know setting it up. I don't I don't think you're qualified for being in buffalo and and it is done as an excuse not to do the broader reform and everybody. Believe we need to do you you know you you should not validate that by participating in it. All right great stuff but you can join us this morning thanks for being here. David and -- it -- at one minute demo I will he's standing by right now. That's the Labor Day the same to you -- that's.