Archive for October 2014

It’s time for career hack Kaiman to move on – By George J. Marlin

October 28, 2014

The following appears in the October 24-30, 2014 issue of the Long Island Business News:

Dear Governor Cuomo:

Nassau County is a fiscal disaster. Its financial condition is as awful as it was when the state intervened in 2000 to bail out hapless County Executive Tom Gulotta.

You will recall that to head off bankruptcy, the Nassau Legislature unanimously approved a message requesting Albany to create the Nassau Interim Finance Authority with broad oversight powers.

In return for the state’s permission to fund operating deficits with $1.311 billion of borrowed money, the county was to walk down the path of fiscal virtue and to fix its broken property-assessment system.

That promise was not kept, and on January 28, 2011, NIFA was compelled to impose a control period.

To stem the financial hemorrhaging, NIFA approved in December 2011 a long-range recovery plan. The county pledged to achieve a GAAP-balanced budget by fiscal year 2015 and NIFA agreed to permit the county to borrow up to $449 million to help Nassau get through the transition.

Last month, the county issued its proposed budget for fiscal 2015 – and it’s nowhere near GAAP balanced. In fact, the multiyear financial plan projects deficits as far as the eye can see.

Assuming approval of the maximum permitted property-tax increase, NIFA analysts project a GAAP deficit of $210 million. And in the out-years they project deficits of $259 million in 2016, $295 million in 2017 and $325 million in 2018, with no plan to balance.

Who is to blame for this mess? NIFA Chairman Jon Kaiman.

After you appointed Kaiman to the board in 2013, he announced he would personally negotiate with the county and the unions a cost-neutral deal to lift the wage freeze. Ignoring warnings of several board members that NIFA should not be in a position of negotiating and then judging union deals, he boasted that as a one-time township district traffic court judge, he successfully negotiated many settlements.

Contrary to his claim, the deal Kaiman persuaded the NIFA board to approve was not cost-neutral. Every objective analysis that predicted the union agreement will cost up to $70 million more a year than it will save is proving true.

Thanks to Kaiman, who turned NIFA from a watchdog to a lapdog, taxpayers will be stuck paying hundreds of millions more deficit-funding debt dollars over the next 30 years.

Let’s face it, Kaiman has been nothing more than a career political hack. After being a Mark Green disciple, he lost races for Hempstead Village board, Nassau County Legislature and Nassau district attorney. In 1999, he managed to get elected to a minor post, North Hempstead Township District judge, but quit after two years to take a town patronage job. He was subsequently elected town supervisor.

However, after 10 years as supervisor, Democrats were grateful when he announced in 2013 he would not seek another term, because they believed he’d lose.

During his tenure, Kaiman – a vulgar and intemperate man – managed to offend scores of constituents. On one occasion, he publicly berated a Catholic priest for referring to Jesus Christ at a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. He made headlines when he purportedly got into an altercation at a Jets game and when he managed to aggravate music legend Art Garfunkel at a concert, with his cell phone.

In addition to screwing up at NIFA, Kaiman is floundering in the $150,000-a-year job you gave him to coordinate state support for Hurricane Sandy recovery on Long Island. Newsday recently disclosed Sandy spending is in shambles, with disappointed and enraged homeowners holding the bag two years after the storm.

Governor, if the voters reelect you in November, your first priority should be to clean out the dead wood in your administration. And the first name on the list of people who need to go should be Jon Kaiman.

‘All Things Possible’ – Cuomo’s Tome on Self-Interest – Book review by George J. Marlin

October 23, 2014

My book review of All Things Possible by Governor Andrew Cuomo, appears on the web site October 23, 2014.

Don’t be fooled by Cuomo’s Smart Schools – By George J. Marlin

October 14, 2014

The following appears in the October 10-16, 2014 issue of the Long Island Business News:

It’s very unusual for proponents of an important statewide ballot referendum to be silent during an election campaign season, but that’s precisely the case this year concerning the so-called “Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014 Proposal No. 3.”

Not familiar with it? I’m not surprised. In his January State of the State address, to entice New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his extreme leftist allies to ditch their plan to increase NYC’s income tax to pay for universal pre-K, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed the bond act, but little has been said about it since.

To bring you up to speed, here’s the official ballot text that will appear in your voting booth on Nov. 4:

The Smart Schools Act of 2014, as set forth in Section One of Part B of Chapter 56 of the laws of 2014, authorizes the sale of state bonds of up to two billion ($2,000,000,000) to provide access to classroom technology and high-speed internet connectivity to equalize opportunities for children to learn, to add classroom space, to expand high-quality pre-kindergarten programs, to replace classroom trailers with permanent instructional space and to install high-tech smart security features in schools. Shall the Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014 be approved? Yes or No.

Why has there been so little talk about this bond referendum? Because supporters are afraid if voters focus on it, a majority will realize it’s a $2 billion dollar boondoggle and vote it down.

This proposal doesn’t make much sense. Taxpayers are being asked to pay principal and interest on debt well beyond the life of iPads, laptops and other computer and technology equipment. E.J. McMahon, president of the fiscal-watchdog Empire Center, agrees: “Cuomo seems to rely on an arbitrary number and would pay for technology that will be outdated and useless before the state’s indebtedness is even paid off.”

Comparing the issuance of such long-term debt to borrowing for a vacation, Citizen’s Budget Commission Vice President Elizabeth Lynam said, “It’s OK to borrow money to purchase a house, and you pay that over 30 years because the house is going to last 30 years. It’s not OK to borrow typically in your personal life for a vacation, because that’s a short-term benefit and you’re going to pay it back for many years to come.”

The technology and construction programs included in the Smart School Act are generally funded by the state’s operating budget via annual school aid. By not using this normal process, the Empire Center has observed “the state will have to grow its debt and incur interest payments that make the expenditures more costly.”

Also, the funding of projects with bond proceeds frees up dollars in the state budget to fund more goodies on the never-ending wish lists of the state-wide teachers unions.

While the national cost of education averages about $10,000 per student annually, spending in New York averages $20,000 per student. On Long Island, it’s projected to hit $26,000 per student this academic year. For all that spending, the results are not impressive; New York student proficiency levels are below the national average, and it’s unlikely spending another $2 billion on dubious projects will improve student performance.

Back in the early 1800s, New York State went on a spending spree. But the 1837 depression brought it to a halt, as the state found itself on the brink of insolvency when canals and railroads built with bonded debt defaulted. To address this crisis, a constitutional convention was convened in 1846, and new measures were adopted permitting debt to be incurred only if approval was obtained in a voter referendum.

In modern times, New Yorkers have used this constitutional power wisely, rejecting most bond acts. This year, state voters have another opportunity to do just that – and to show Cuomo they’re too smart to fall for the Smart Act.