October 3, 2003
Comptroller: 'Fiscal gimmicks' by lawmakers add to state's financial problem
Squandered surpluses, late budgets, and structural deficits
have caused New York’s current fiscal crisis, according
to state Comptroller Alan Hevesi’s new report on the
financial condition of the state.
The annual report assesses the state’s ability to fulfill future financial and service obligations while maintaining a balanced budget.
“Now, more than ever, fiscal discipline is needed to ensure budget balance and to provide a healthy environment in which our economy can grow,” it says.
In 2003, the General Fund accumulated deficit was $3.3 billion, the first such deficit since 1997, the report said.
"Typically, governments increase debt during difficult times and reduce debt during strong economic times," Hevesi said.
"Unfortunately, during those rosy economic times, New York's leaders continued to borrow rather than to take meaningful steps to curb their appetite for debt."
The report also found that:
- New York's combined state and local tax burden is 26
percent above the national average. Local taxes alone are
more than 70 percent above the national average.
- The state’s debt outstanding is growing faster
than personal income.
- In 2002, New York’s per capita spending was $4,457,
19.2 percent higher than the national average.
- From 1998 through 2001, Medicaid spending increased by 4.9 percent in New York. Between 2001 and 2002 rate of growth doubled to 12 percent.
Hevesi criticized state lawmakers for making a bad situation worse by resorting to “fiscal gimmicks" to solve the state’s financial problems.
“As a result, lawmakers will again face difficult budgetary challenges next year when it becomes clear that many of the solutions they adopted were only temporary,” Hevesi said.