DiNapoli bolsters pension fund stability—and cuts tax-funded costs

Excerpt:

DiNapoli announced today that he’s approved a recommendation by the State Retirement System Actuary to reduce, from 6.8 percent to 5.9 percent, the assumed rate of return (RoR) on investments by the $268 billion Common Retirement Fund, which underwrites the New York State and Local Employee Retirement System (NYSLERS) and Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS), of which the comptroller is the sole trustee.

To be sure, even at 5.9 percent, the RoR that the pension fund literally counts on to pay constitutionally guaranteed benefits will remain considerably higher than the yields from commensurate low-risk U.S. Treasury or high-quality corporate bonds, which currently range from 2.3 percent to 3.3 percent. Nonetheless, in isolation, cutting the RoR assumption is an unequivocally good and prudent thing for the comptroller to do.

Assuming lower earnings also tends to result in higher required contributions by employers—which is why politically sensitive public pension fund administrators across the country have tended to set their RoRs at much higher levels than those required for private corporate plans. To guard against volatility in investment returns, which has been especially pronounced over the past 25 years, DiNapoli and other pension fund administrators also resort to “asset smoothing” — i.e., counting average market returns over several years—as a basis for estimating the assets available to pay retirement benefits. In New York’s case, the smoothing period is five years.

Author(s): E.J. McMahon

Publication Date: 25 August 2021

Publication Site: Empire Center for Public Policy

New NY governor adds 12,000 deaths to publicized COVID tally

Link: https://apnews.com/article/andrew-cuomo-health-coronavirus-pandemic-7312b49695e726eda8d59848e82271c5

Excerpt:

Delivering another blow to what’s left of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s legacy, New York’s new governor acknowledged on her first day in office that the state has had nearly 12,000 more deaths from COVID-19 than Cuomo told the public.

“The public deserves a clear, honest picture of what’s happening. And that’s whether it’s good or bad, they need to know the truth. And that’s how we restore confidence,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said on NPR.

In its first daily update on the outbreak Tuesday evening, Hochul’s office reported that nearly 55,400 people have died of the coronavirus in New York based on death certificate data submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That’s up from about 43,400 that Cuomo reported to the public as of Monday, his last day in office. The Democrat who was once widely acclaimed for his leadership during the COVID-19 outbreak resigned in the face of an impeachment drive after being accused of sexually harassing at least 11 women, allegations he disputed.

The higher number is not entirely new. Federal health officials and some academic institutions tracking COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have been using the higher tally for many months because of known gaps in the data Cuomo had been choosing to publicize.

Author(s): MARINA VILLENEUVE

Publication Date: 25 August 2021

Publication Site: AP News

DiNapoli: Chatham Police Chief Sentenced for Pension Double-Dipping

Link: https://www.osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/2021/07/dinapoli-chatham-police-chief-sentenced-pension-double-dipping

Excerpt:

Former Village of Chatham Chief of Police Peter Volkmann was sentenced to pay $92,829 in restitution and perform 200 hours of community service today for defrauding the New York State pension system by concealing his unlawful post-retirement public income and for stealing from the village through sham requests for reimbursement. His fraud was discovered during a joint investigation by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka, and the New York State Police.

…..

Volkmann pleaded guilty in February to grand larceny in the fourth degree for circumventing New York state’s post-retirement income restrictions and cheating the New York State and Local Retirement System out of $74,222. Volkmann hid public-source income from 19 municipalities and school districts in excess of the statutory limit by funneling the earnings through a private business, PF Volkmann & Associates. He also pled to official misconduct, a misdemeanor, for stealing $18,607 from the Village of Chatham by falsifying mileage vouchers and other reimbursements to increase his income. 

Volkmann, 57, of Stuyvesant, served as a Chief of Police for the town of Stockport until 2016. He was also the Chief of Police for the Village of Chatham since the fall of 2013 and he served as unpaid Commissioner of the Hudson Police Department from January 2020, until this investigation became public.

Author(s): Thomas DiNapoli

Publication Date: 19 July 2021

Publication Site: NY State Comptroller

DiNapoli: Local Sales Taxes Jump 49.2 Percent in Second Quarter

Link: https://www.osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/2021/07/dinapoli-local-sales-taxes-jump-49-point-2-percent-second-quarter

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Excerpt:

Sales tax revenue for local governments in New York state rose by 49.2% in the second quarter (April to June 2021) compared to the same period last year, a dramatic increase from last year’s weak collections during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. Sales tax collections during this period grew by just over $1.6 billion and even surpassed collections reported during the second quarter of 2019, before the onset of the pandemic.

…..

The size of the increase largely reflects extremely weak collections in the April to June period of 2020. However, even compared to pre-pandemic collections for the same period in 2019, statewide collections in 2021 were up 8.7% or $396 million. Every region outside of New York City experienced two-year growth over 18%. The Mid-Hudson and North Country regions both reported increases of more than 29%.

Author(s): Thomas DiNapoli

Publication Date: 23 July 2021

Publication Site: NY State Comptroller

Report Reveals Albany’s Balanced Budget a Gimmick

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Excerpt:

The dramatic reversal that shrank the state’s four-year budget gap from $38.7 billion in January to the current $3.4 billion occurred, incredibly, despite the Governor and legislature adopting a budget that increases state spending significantly in education and other areas. What turned the tide was a massive injection of federal aid—including $12.7 billion in no-strings federal aid awarded to the state in March under the American Rescue Plan—along with tax collections that defied earlier projections of vast, pandemic-induced revenue loss, and new tax hikes inflicted on high earners estimated to yield $2.75 billion in new revenue this year alone. As a result, the enacted budget financial plan the Governor’s budget office issued last month shows a balanced budget for this fiscal year and next. Even the red ink that starts accumulating in 2024 and 2025 looks manageable.

But looks are deceiving here. Extending the budget window—as does a chart on page nine of the Comptroller’s report, shown below—reveals large, yawning budget gaps growing from nearly $8 billion in 2026 to nearly $20 billion by the end of the decade. The dual expiration of American Rescue Plan funds in 2026 and a temporary hike in the PIT in 2027 sends the budget deep into the red.

Author(s): Peter Warren

Publication Date: 28 June 2021

Publication Site: Empire Center for Public Policy

The New York City Unions Whose Backdoor Deal Sold Out Retirees, Helped Insurance Industry

Link: https://www.newsweek.com/new-york-city-unions-whose-backdoor-deal-sold-out-retirees-helped-insurance-industry-1604661

Excerpt:

In recent years, leadership of some of the nation’s largest unions have publicly opposed single-payer health care proposals, angering their rank-and-file and forcing Democratic politicians who back single-payer to take on a key constituency.

In New York City, for example, the umbrella organization for the city’s public sector unions—the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC)—recently helped the health insurance industry block a statewide single-payer bill, on the grounds that their members wanted to keep the health care benefits for which they had sacrificed wage increases.

But it turns out that the MLC, which bargains for health care benefits for city unions, was also engaging in backdoor negotiations with the city, resulting in a proposal to switch nearly a quarter-million people from Medicare to privately administered Medicare Advantage plans.

…..

Following the 2018 cost-cutting agreement, union leaders and officials came up with eight proposals to meet the cost-cutting requirements, including switching to a statewide single-payer system or setting up a self-insurance system.

A January 2021 study by The New School found that the city could save about $1.6 billion per year if it adopted a self-insurance program, as most major cities and large companies have done. That would involve setting up a health insurance plan just for the city’s employees and paying for claims directly, rather than paying premiums to a health insurance company which tends to be more expensive because insurance company profit margins are so large.

But since the negotiations between the MLC and Office of Labor Relations were held behind closed doors, retirees don’t know whether this option was ever considered.

Author(s): JULIA ROCK, THE DAILY POSTER

Publication Date: 28 June 2021

Publication Site: Newsweek

Database: New York’s pension system hits record returns. Here’s who is getting the most

Link: https://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/news/politics/2021/06/01/database-nys-pension-system-gets-record-returns-who-earned-most/5254524001/

Excerpt:

A rebound in the financial markets after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic fueled record growth in the state’s pension fund for government workers.

The pension fund for 1.1 million employees and retirees grew a whopping 33.6% for the fiscal year that ended March 31, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced Wednesday.

The return on investments increased the fund’s value to nearly $255 billion, making it one of the largest public pension funds in the nation.

….

The fund’s long-term expected rate of return is 6.8%.

The health of the fund is critical to its 673,000 active workers and 447,000 retirees, and it comes as more public sector employees are retiring, a review of state records showed.

Author(s): Joseph Spector, Sean Lahman

Publication Date: 1 June 2021

Publication Site: Poughkeepsie Journal

Report and Recommendations of the Task Force on Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care

Link: https://nysba.org/app/uploads/2021/06/11.-Task-Force-on-Nursing-Home-and-Long-Term-Care-Report-staff-memo-and-comments-6.11.2021.pdf

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Excerpt:

Because of the anticipated need for large numbers of hospital beds, the Governor, in his first Executive Order issued under his emergency powers, authorized hospitals to “rapidly discharge” patients47. An especially important event in terms of the State’s health care capacity occurred on March 23rd. On that date, Governor Cuomo issued an Executive Order requiring that all hospitals cancel elective surgeries to free up hospital beds, and urged that hospitals go beyond the order and increase their capacity by 100%. Health officials said that day that New York had 53,000 hospital
beds with an anticipated need due to COVID-19 of 113,000. Officials also stated that New York had 3,000 ICU beds with an anticipated need due to COVID-19 of 18,000.


Two days later, on March 25th, the Department of Health issued the now infamous Advisory to nursing homes. The Advisory was explicitly issued out of concern for hospital capacity. It said so in its second sentence. “There is an urgent need to expand hospital capacity in New York State to be able to meet the demand for patients
with COVID-19 requiring acute care.” The Advisory went on to state the expectations for nursing homes.

Author(s): New York State Bar Association Task Force on COVID-19 in New York Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care

Publication Date: June 2021

Publication Site: New York State Bar Association

Who would want to leave New York?

Link: https://blog.datawrapper.de/new-york-city-immigration/

Graphic:

Excerpt:

In fact, just having been born here makes me an atypical New Yorker. Of the approximately 8.3 million people who live in the city today, just under half were born in New York State. Eleven percent come from other US states and 40% from the rest of the world. So we’re not wrong to associate New York with immigration—the average New Yorker comes from somewhere else.

I got these numbers from the US Census Bureau, who do their best to estimate not just how many people live in each county, but how they got there: by birth, by migrating from another country, or by migrating from elsewhere in the US. When you take away the people who died, moved abroad, or moved domestically, you’re left with each of these three streams’ net effect on the population that year.[1] Those are the numbers that will show us whether it’s unusual to move away:

Author(s): Rose Mintzer-Sweeney

Publication Date: 3 June 2021

Publication Site: Datawrapper

State sales tax collections rise sharply in April

Link: https://news.wbfo.org/post/state-sales-tax-collections-rise-sharply-april

Excerpt:

In a review of the state’s economy, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office states that sales tax collections in April were more than forty-five percent higher than the same period last year.

Sales tax collections in 2021 totaled $1.5 billion. In Western New York, Erie County saw a nearly 50 percent increase this April over the previous year. The largest increases were seen in Niagara and Allegany Counties at 63 percent. The lowest growth was in Cattaraugus County at nearly 43 percent.


DiNapoli attributes the incredible growth to the re-opening of many businesses.

Author(s): CHRIS JAMELE

Publication Date: 15 May 2021

Publication Site: WBFO NPR

DiNapoli: NYS Pension Fund Announces $400 Million in Sustainable Investments

Link: https://www.osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/2021/04/dinapoli-nys-pension-fund-announces-400-million-sustainable-investments

Excerpt:

The Fund committed approximately $300 million to Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners IV, a European investment fund that will focus on investments in renewable assets including onshore and offshore wind and solar, as well as climate infrastructure assets that support renewable power.

Additionally, the Fund committed $100 million to Excelsior Renewable Energy Investment Fund I, a North American-focused investment fund that will target investments in renewable power assets such as solar and wind.

Publication Date: 20 April 2021

Publication Site: Office of the NY State Comptroller

NY State Pension Commits to $400 Million in Sustainable Investments

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/ny-state-pension-commits-400-million-sustainable-investments/

Excerpt:

The $247.7 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund has committed approximately $400 million to two funds as part of its Sustainable Investments and Climate Solutions (SICS) Program.

The commitments are part of New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s climate action plan to lower investment risks from climate change and help shift the pension fund to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions within the next 20 years.

Author(s): Michael Katz

Publication Date: 26 April 2021

Publication Site: ai-CIO