Archive for November 29, 2013

NIFA Statement – November 25, 2013 – By George J. Marlin

November 29, 2013

Statement by

George J. Marlin

Director

Nassau Interim Finance Authority

Monday, November 25, 2013

               When I joined this board four years ago, NIFA warned the County was utilizing blue smoke and mirrors budgetary gimmicks similar to those employed in the 1990s that brought Nassau to the edge of bankruptcy.

             Refusing to adequately address the fiscal deficit County officials inherited, NIFA was compelled by state law to invoke a control period on Wednesday, January 26, 2011.

             While the County on the one hand claimed it wanted to “cooperate” with NIFA, on the other hand it publicly vilified NIFA board members and brought a suit to enjoin and restrain NIFA from continuing to impose the control period.

             After the Supreme Court ruled against the County citing that the NIFA control declaration was neither unconstitutional nor arbitrary and capricious, the board reminded the County that the estimated $176 million budget deficit was “real,” “substantial” and “the deficit [was] in accordance with GAAP as it must according to State law.”

             The NIFA warnings that the County stop illusory budgeting practices and actually govern and manage fiscal realities fell on deaf ears.  The County continued to refuse to come to grips with the fact that its budget was woefully out of balance and that 2012 threatened to be even worse.

             The County Executive claimed “Nassau’s 2011 budget is balanced and maintains significant contingencies.”  As late as December 2011, Newsday reported that County CFO Timothy Sullivan said in a statement, “There is no deficit.”  The Wall Street Journal reported “Mr. Mangano insists the budget is balanced and has said NIFA is requiring him to come up with unnecessary contingency plans.”  Mangano also told The Long Island Press, “I put forth a budget that is definitely balanced.”

             Meanwhile, in the last quarter of 2011, the Nassau County Comptroller estimated a $134 million budget shortfall; the Nassau Legislative Budget Office put the deficit at $118 million; and NIFA’s revised projection for the 2011 budget deficit was $153 million.  (The actual 2011 GAAP deficit was $173 million.)

             In December 2011, this board agreed to a 2012 Fiscal Plan that included $449 million in Tax Cert and other borrowings.  In return for imposing on taxpayers another multi-generational backdoor tax increase, the County pledged it will either obtain $150 million of union givebacks or make other recurring costs in the budget totaling $150 million.  In addition, the County promised to have a GAAP balanced budget in 2015 and that it would fully fund with operating revenue all tax certs, judgments and settlements and termination expenses beginning in 2015.

             Obviously, the County’s approved budget and fiscal plan for 2014-2017 repudiated those promises, hence the conditions this board imposed on the County today.

             Since December 2011, the County has continued playing fiscal games and has failed to adequately address its structural deficit.  NIFA had the good sense to derail two County schemes.  The first one was a potential sewer system deal that would have included approximately $750 in borrowing of which up to $300 million of the proceeds would have been used as “one shot’ revenues to balance operating budgets.  NIFA effectively killed a scheme that would have forced the next two generations of Nassau residents to pay ever increasing toilet flushing taxes for “one shot” dollars that would have plugged deficit holes in current operating budgets. 

             The other scheme NIFA derailed was a deal to finance property tax judgments that would have evaded the legal approval process to borrow money. 

             In 2013, the County made the absurd claim that it incurred a $41.5 million budgetary surplus in 2012.  The County came up with that number based on the fact that they failed to pay some current bills in 2012 and paid others by borrowing money.  The NIFA analysis of the 2012 budget revealed that the County incurred an $85.5 million GAAP deficit.

             And as the County claims they want to “cooperate” with NIFA, they continue their shenanigans.  The budget they presented to this board projects operating deficits as far as the eye can see.

            After four years on this board I have learned that the County’s definition of “cooperation” means “do what we want.”  Cooperation for the County is a one-way street.

             NIFA is a New York State control board.  The Oxford Dictionary defines control as “the act or power of directing or regulating.”  NIFA’s task is to judge financial numbers and contracts and to direct the County accordingly.  Therefore, it cannot judge and be part of any negotiations.  NIFA must never have its role as an independent State body compromised by the political desires of any elected official, whether it be State or County.

             Good corporate governance mandates that the board be independent if it is to meet its fiduciary responsibility as a New York State Public Authority.  This is clearly delineated in the Public Authorities Reform Act.

             It has been a privilege to serve for four years on this board.  Throughout my tenure whenever I have had to make an important public policy decision, I have looked for guidance to Sir Thomas More, who observed almost five hundred years ago, “When statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties, they lead their country by a short route to chaos.”

             I am pleased that my colleagues and I carried out our fiduciary responsibilities by judging the County’s actions based on rational analysis and not ill-tempered emotions or election results.  I am also grateful to Ronald Stack who served on this board for 12 years, ten of them as Chairman.  His wise counsel and his expertise in municipal finance were invaluable to the decision making process of this board.  He is a statesman of the first rank who was never under anyone’s thumb.

             My thanks to the NIFA staff who have performed their duties and have provided us with first rate analysis during very trying times.

             I wish my colleagues good luck as they continue to grapple with the County’s dismal fiscal condition.  It is my sincere hope that they uphold NIFA’s excellent reputation as an independent body that stays above the political fray.

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Health-care hell horror stories – By George J. Marlin

November 29, 2013

The following appears in the November 22-28, 2013 issue of the Long Island Business News:

It appears political conservatives like me were right when we warned three years ago that the federal government’s attempt to seize control of one-sixth of the U.S. economy would wreak havoc on the health care industry and hurt a lot of people.

We now know that President Barack Obama’s pledge, “If you like your present health-care policy, you can keep it,” was, as The New York Times gently put it, “an inaccurate promise.”

As for the botched rollout of the Rube Goldberg Obamacare website, the president – who loves big government – blamed it on his bureaucrats. He said they are lousy at executing complicated policy initiatives and awful at creating websites.

Think about it. It took three years and over a half-billion dollars squandered before the bureaucrat-in-chief and his top advisers realized their Internet engineers were not up to the job.

What Obama seems to miss is that, by definition, the only people who manage government programs are bureaucrats. By conceding that bureaucrats are incompetent at running government programs, he’s implicitly affirming that the Affordable Health Care Act is condemned to failure because they are the only people available to run it.

Another great lie circulated in recent weeks by Obama apologists has been that the millions of canceled individual policies were “junk” ones that only covered catastrophic medical cases.

A friend of mine, a single mother of two children, showed me her cancelation letter, which stated that her carrier was “exiting the individual major medical insurance market in Pennsylvania” due to “increased regulation since the federal government’s passage of its recent federal health-care reform … As such your referenced coverage will terminate as of March 31, 2014.”

This person’s policy was not junk. It had a $600 family deductible and $20 co-pay for doctor visits as well as catastrophic coverage. Comparable coverage on the exchange will cost her about the same, but the deductible skyrockets to $5,000 annually. A visit to the local general practitioner will no longer cost $20 but about $150.

Many, like my friend, will not be able to afford such costly visits on a regular basis. Hence, general-practitioner practices will suffer and preventive medical care will decline.

There will be plenty more horror stories, particularly when small businesses get their renewal options. I can speak with authority because I run a small company that employs fewer than 50 people, and it’s being adversely impacted by Obamacare.

For 15 years, it’s been my company’s practice to provide no-deductible Cadillac-level health care at no cost to our employees. But with insurance consultants telling me to expect renewal premiums for Cadillac coverage to go up 50 percent to 100 percent, that practice may have to change. Thanks to Obamacare, my colleagues and I will likely have to dig deep into our pockets annually to maintain the policy we like.

Last week, fearing a political backlash from his own party, the president announced that many individuals may keep the health-care plans they like for another year. Obama’s instant fix, however, may create even more chaos in the marketplace if state insurance commissioners and carriers determine it’s impossible to overturn three years of planning and programming to reinstate cancelled policies within 30 days.

The Affordable Health Care Act is collapsing under its own weight, and all the president’s bureaucrats will not be able to put it back together again. Come next November, I expect millions of Americans – whose lives have been disrupted by intrusive Washington social engineers – will register their anger at the polls by punishing the culprits who swore “big brother” knows what’s best for them.