State is in crisis, needs reform

While it was not all doom and gloom, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli told an audience of Queens business leaders that the state is in a crisis mode, but, with that crisis also comes an opportunity for reform.
“It’s an opportunity to shift our focus, it’s an opportunity for us to make smarter decisions…sometimes when times are good, you make the easier decisions and the easier choices; it doesn’t always put us in the best positions in the long run,” DiNapoli said at a York College business breakfast on Friday morning, December 5.
DiNapoli talked about the $1.6 billion state budget gap this year as well as the projected $12.6 billion budget gap for next year’s fiscal year. He also said that the early-projected gap for these two years and the following one is close to $30 billion.
“That is a huge hole for us to have to deal with,” DiNapoli said.
DiNapoli said that in recent years, the state always spent more money than it had, but it banked on excess revenue from Wall Street, which accounts for approximately 20 percent of the revenue coming into the state each year, to make up the difference. However, with the turmoil on Wall Street in light of the subprime mortgage crisis, the state is not expecting those revenues this year.
“We really have a problem here of revenue being way off from what we normally have had in recent years,” DiNapoli said.
DiNapoli praised Governor David Paterson for recognizing the severity of the state’s economic woes early on, and while all state agencies will be impacted by the economic downturn, he does not believe that the state will be able to just cut its way out of the problem.
“It can’t just be about cutting; it has to be about reform and being smarter about delivering services,” DiNapoli said. “And, if we do that, we will come out of this in a much stronger position than when we went into this.”
In addition to the massive budget gaps, DiNapoli talked about how Queens was beginning to see the effects of the struggling economy in the unemployment figures.
In 2007, the borough had an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent - a number that was lower than any year dating back to 1990. However, in October of this year, the unemployment rate in the borough increased to 5.1 percent, which was still lower than the citywide numbers.
During the meeting, DiNapoli also praised York College and its President Marcia Keizs for the positive strides the institution has made in recent years.
“York has had such an important impact on Queens and on the city, such a positive impact,” DiNapoli said.

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