As part of a regular weekly feature on the Politics Now blog, Tom Precious of The News' Albany Bureau posts an audio interview with a newsmaker from the Capitol.
ALBANY -- State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli insisted today that he maintains a good working relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but said he is concerned some of the governor's budget plans end up "encroaching upon our authority to look out for the taxpayers' interest."
The Democratic governor and Democratic comptroller, who have never enjoyed the closest of relations, the past week have been sniping at each other over several Cuomo budget proposals.
The governor wants to create a new pension tier for future government employees, who would have to pay more to their retirement plans or have the option of joining a 401(k)-like defined contribution system. The governor also wants to reduce the ability of the comptroller to conduct pre-audits of some state contracts to streamline the procurement process.
In an interview with The Buffalo News this morning, DiNapoli said he and Cuomo have a "good relationship." He acknowledged, though, that the two men have not personally talked about the governor's plans. A day earlier, Cuomo sought to downplay any talk of feud, insisting that while he disagrees with DiNapoli on some policy matters that he still thinks he has been a "good comptroller."
You can download this audio and take it with you by clicking here.
The comptroller today said there is a long history of "tension" between comptrollers and governors in New York.
"We're the oversight office. We're the ones looking over the shoulder of the administration," he said.
"There's always a sense the (gubernatorial) administration is doing it the right way and there's no need for anybody to take a look at what we're doing and the comptroller's office takes the position, 'Well, our role ... is to make sure things are done right."
"As long as that tension is a responsible one and not based on just trying to score points over each other, I think that's exactly what the system of checks and balances was set up to achieve," the comptroller said.
The comptroller dismissed criticism from the Cuomo administration and business groups that his opposition to the pension issue is driven by ties to public employee unions. He called those claims "a sound bite ... meant to obfuscate the issue."
"The governor's plan to let future workers join 401(k)-like systems would create risks for both the workers and taxpayers," he said. Over time, he said, retirement costs for the state and localities go up because of external forces on Wall Street.
Going to a defined contribution plan will "make even more people vulnerable," he said. He also said no one should be surprised by his stance since he ran for office in 2010 against Republican Harry Wilson. [That was the race in which Cuomo declined to endorse DiNapoli.]
"It's the platform upon which I was elected, and some of the groups that are attacking me are the same ones that endorsed my opponent," he said.
The comptroller also criticized the governor's plan to eliminate some pre-audits his office conducts on state contracts.
"Why only look after the fact that there may have been money wasted or a bad contract? That pre-audit authority allows us to deal with issues before they become issues," he said."To just take away the ability for us to do that pre-audit, I think, exposes taxpayers to some risk - unnecessarily," he added.