The governor is thus once again in violation of Section 23 of the State Finance Law, which requires him to update the financial plan “within 30 days of the close of a quarter to which it pertains.” That would have been last Wednesday.
In 2011, citing “volatility” in the stock market and the Eurozone, Cuomo didn’t issue the end-of-October update until mid-November. Last year, the update was issued almost a month behind schedule. The excuse in 2012 was Hurricane Sandy–although when update was finally delivered on Nov. 29, the Division of the Budget said (not unreasonably) that it was still too early to forecast the full fiscal impact of the storm. Indeed, although it was the latest such update in memory, the 2012-13 mid-year revision made no significant change to the quarterly update issued four months earlier.
The state’s quarterly financial-plan update is no mere bureaucratic formality: It’s a crucial disclosure document, providing a detailed accounting of the state’s progress in meeting key budgetary goals. The mid-year update, in particular, is an indispensable guide to the fiscal trends that will shape the next Executive Budget — which Cuomo must present in January, looking toward adoption by the start of a new fiscal year on April 1.
A good part of the blame for this falls on the Legislature. The Finance Law imposes a number of disclosure and transparency requirements on the Executive–but the only enforcement mechanism is the Legislature’s presumed interest in leaning on him to toe the line. When legislative leaders are apathetic about financial disclosure, the taxpayers are left in the dark.
If Cuomo’s mid-year update materializes early this week, it will be early by his standards — but still later than the Legislature or the public should be willing to tolerate, especially from a governor who promised to run “the most transparent and accountable [administration] in history.”
What can we expect from the mid-year update when it does materialize? Here’s what Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli had to say when he issued his own mid-year summary last Wednesday:
“New York is in a stable financial position half way through the fiscal year. Sales tax collections are on track to exceed year-end projections and fund balances are above planned levels. Business tax collections are below projections so far this year and should be watched closely. The federal government is up and running again, but the possibility of further disruptions from Washington and continued slow economic growth remind us that caution is still necessary.”