Tom DiNapoli has held the role of state comptroller for more than a decade. As the state’s chief fiscal officer and sole trustee of New York’s common retirement fund, DiNapoli has navigated through economic crises, stabilized and grown the pension fund, taken on public corruption, and shone a spotlight on agencies and municipalities through the auditing process, while managing an office of more than 2,700 employees.
Now, as he seeks his third full term, it’s clear DiNapoli has done the job well. The state’s pension fund has grown to $207.4 billion, gaining 11.35 percent in the fiscal year that ended in March. Some of those gains are due to a high-performing market, but that strength has put the fund on a more stable path. New York’s pension fund continues to be one of the best-funded in the country, at 98 percent. DiNapoli should consider lowering the assumed rate of return, now at 7 percent, to reduce risks.
DiNapoli, 64, is disciplined but searching in his investment choices, deciding, for instance, not to divest fully from fossil fuel companies, despite political pressure to do so, and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s own proposal to divest from gas and oil in the city’s separate pension fund. DiNapoli said his choice is in part to get the best possible return, and in part because he wants to have a seat at the shareholder table to push corporations to make better choices for the environment. Yet, the Great Neck Democrat also hopes to find the right investments in renewable energy and green technology. He should continue that effort and, if possible, divest further from fossil fuels.
The state comptroller has wide oversight of how taxpayer dollars are used. His office audits agencies like the MTA, along with various city departments and activities. Most recently, DiNapoli found that the MTA’s budget gap could approach $634 million by 2022, and on another issue, that private elevator inspectors in NYC were overlooking safety hazards. DiNapoli can and should do more in terms of audits. His powers, however, have been limited by the State Legislature, which in 2011 removed the comptroller’s ability to pre-review economic development contracts. State lawmakers should return that jurisdiction.
DiNapoli’s opponent is investment banker Jonathan Trichter. The Manhattan resident worked for 2010 GOP comptroller candidate Harry Wilson as campaign policy director, and then became an employee in Wilson’s corporate restructuring firm. Trichter, 47, cites his work with Wilson as experience that prepares him to be comptroller, but he’s done little on his own. Trichter said he would bring the state pension fund’s assumed rate of return down to 6 percent, which he said would be more honest and realistic. Trichter is a former Democratic operative who switched his registration to Republican in May, and his lack of managerial experience makes him a nonstarter.
DiNapoli knows Albany’s players and its ways. He is widely respected. He should use that capital to give his bully pulpit a louder voice and aggressively use his auditing power to further spotlight public corruption.
amNewYork endorses DiNapoli.