Nobody really knows how bad deficit is, says state's finance chief
Submitted by Howard Owens on April 7, 2010 - 11:38am
The official deficit number is $9 billion, but years of accounting tricks aimed at hiding deficit spending masks New York's true fiscal picture, according to Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
For years, governors and legislators used a grab bag of fiscal gimmicks to cover up the growing gaps between revenue and expenditures. Those gimmicks are now so widespread and so embedded in Albany budgeting, DiNapoli said, that they have essentially rendered the state’s balance sheet immaterial.
One common device is the “sweep,” where the state grabs a surplus from an another entity — say, the Battery Park City Authority — to cover recurring expenses in the general fund, the state’s main bank account and the one that is required to be kept in balance.
Officials have also moved many day-to-day operating expenses out of the general fund and into other funds, hiding spending growth and hiding the true cost of running the government. For example, Governor Paterson’s proposed budget uses $40 million from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund, which is supposed to pay for parkland acquisitions, to pay salaries and other expenses of the state’s environmental and parks agencies.
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