By Tom Precious
ALBANY -– It might make bond underwriters smile, but New York state’s debt load is increasing at a faster clip than borrowed money will be repaid, and service on the government’s debt continues to be one of the fastest growing portions of the budget, the state’s chief fiscal watchdog is warning.
While a new report this morning by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli offers a mix of good and worrisome news about the state’s finances, it is a two-page section of his examination about state debt that especially stands out.
Consider some of these borrowing tidbits:
* More than 94 percent of state-funded existing debt was issued by public authorities -– without any voter approval;
* In the past four years, state-funded debt –- in which the state pays directly or indirectly for borrowing -– has jumped 21 percent, while voter-approved debt has increased nine percent;
* The new five-year capital plan calls for issuing $22.2 billion in new debt by the spring of 2017, while just $18.6 billion will be retired –- a problem DiNapoli said is attributable to past big borrowings and the economy’s downtown the past several years.
In considering possible cuts in spending or tax hikes to make up the difference, consider, too, that the amount of money coming out of the state budget just to service -- pay -- the government’s debt is expected to grow from $6.8 billion in 2011-12 to $7.8 billion in 2017.
DiNapoli said state spending the past four years has been partly funded through $17.2 billion in borrowings, including $3.8 billion in 2012.
For New Yorkers, it means the level of debt is equal to $3,253 per resident, or about 6.4 percent of personal income, DiNapoli said. Only California has higher debt loads, and New York has nearly twice as much debt as New Jersey, the third-highest indebted state.