State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli was recently in New York’s North Country for an economic development tour of Franklin and Clinton counties. During a stop in Plattsburgh, the Democrat discussed the state and region’s fiscal health.
The New York Comptroller’s office is responsible for the state’s fiscal oversight including producing reports on state finances, managing state debt; and acting as the trustee of the state pension fund.
The comptroller recently took an economic tour of two counties hosted by 115th District Assemblyman Democrat D. Billy Jones. “Now more than ever we need his expertise. We’re going through this downward spiral of finances, state and local, due to this awful pandemic we’re going through. And we certainly need his expertise now and it’s extremely important that we have that input for our local governments.”
Comptroller DiNapoli noted these are extraordinary times as he outlined state finances and projections for the North Country. “2020 began as really a wonderful year. The economy was moving in the right direction. And what happened from mid-March, what it’s done to our state’s economy, to employment. This region’s been doing a little better than some of the other regions but you know we know we’re not out of the woods yet.”
DiNapoli characterized the North Country economy as resilient, pointing to employment data over the past year. “Looking at Franklin and Clinton counties 11.7% drop in employment in May of 2020. Fast forward to September still down from a year before but the numbers started to go up again so a drop of only 4.4% year-over-year. Not all the jobs have come back but you are moving in the right direction.”
The comptroller’s office usually assesses sales tax revenue on a quarterly basis but during the pandemic, DiNapoli said his office is issuing monthly snapshots. “Looking at the 3rd quarter our state sales tax revenue down 9.5%. And what do we see for the North Country? A positive 4.7%. Better than the state numbers. Better than I think virtually every region of the state as well. September particularly, again looking specifically at Franklin and Clinton, Clinton County up 20.6%, Franklin County up 35.7%. It really shows great strength in terms of economic activity in this part of the state.”
For Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor Michael Cashman, the positive trends in sales tax is good news. “We don’t have a town tax. We focus on sales tax. Our economy is doing some really successful things in some very challenging times. And what I mean by that is currently during the pandemic in the Town of Plattsburgh alone over 100,000 square feet of new business is being developed.”
The comptroller estimates a 6.24 positive return in the state pension fund despite the pandemic. “We’re pleased to be able to say the pension fund is strong. Retirement security for our members is there. But we learned the hard way this year what matters is March 31st of 2021. So I’m certainly hopeful that we can continue in the positive trend that we are in.”
DiNapoli emphasized that there is a need for additional direct federal pandemic support to states and localities. “And I’m sure there will be another package. The question is the timing. And the question is how much. And the question is whether or not some of that will go directly to state and local governments. And without that Washington, additional Washington assistance you’re going to be facing some very tough choices with some real consequences for local government and for the people that we all serve.”
The comptroller’s North Country tour included visits to area businesses including a ski center and an orchard.