Three months ago, during the pomp of the state’s inauguration ceremony on Jan. 1, New York state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli thanked Gov. Kathy Hochul for signing a bill to restore his office’s power to pre-audit state development contracts.
“As the state independent fiscal watchdog, I will continue to advance transparency and accountability in the finances and budget practices of our state and local governments,” DiNapoli said at the time.
Back in 2011, Gov. Andrew Cuomo had taken those powers away from the comptroller after convincing the Legislature that DiNapoli’s audits were slowing down the fast pace of his economic development programs.
That moment on Inauguration Day ended an 11-year battle for the comptroller, during which several members of Cuomo’s inner circle were convicted of fraud after the government accused them of bid-rigging state contracts.
But just weeks after DiNapoli publicly thanked her, Hochul proposed stripping his office of a different set of powers — this time, his pre-audit authority over executive branch spending.
“It’s the end of March, but it’s like Ground Hog Day,” DiNapoli told Capital Tonight.
This time, DiNapoli appears to have the Legislature on his side – neither legislative one-house bill included the governor’s proposal.
“[But] I worry that when they rush to close everything down, as will inevitably happen, people may forget about this one and they may default to what the governor proposed. I hope not,” he said.
When asked why these powers are important, he said it gets back to transparency, accountability and ensuring a level playing field.
“What we saw in the executive budget was a carve-out, of about $14 billion in some discreet areas,” he said. “In terms of the magnitude of the money, certainly it’s a lot less than had been carved out before but it is the same bad story.”