Editorial: For comptroller, DiNapoli

The Editorial Board

Albany Times Union

Oct 30, 2018

Many voters probably think of the state comptroller as an elected accountant for the state. It's a far more consequential and influential post than that.

The comptroller is, arguably, the one truly independent person in state government who can keep an eye on whether taxpayers' money is being misused. And with the office comes sole trusteeship of the nation's third-largest retirement system, with more than 1 million members and assets of over $207 billion.

Tom DiNapoli, a Democrat, has held the post since 2007, when the four-term assemblyman was chosen by the state Legislature to fill a vacancy left by the resignation of scandal-plagued Alan Hevesi. Mr. DiNapoli, reelected by voters in 2010 and 2014, has served in an exemplary fashion, and without a whiff of scandal. He deserves another term.

Under Mr. DiNapoli, the pension fund weathered the Great Recession, and as of 2017 stood as the third best-funded in the nation. The office churns out a steady flow of audits, identifying billions of dollars in overpayments, bad practices, and other waste in state and local governments and school districts — $3 billion in Medicaid alone.

He also imposed new ethical standards in his own office, ending the sorts of pay-to-play practices that brought down Mr. Hevesi.

Challenging Mr. DiNapoli are Jonathan Trichter, running on the Republican line, and Mark Dunlea, the Green Party's nominee and a longtime anti-poverty activist whose major focus has been divestiture by the pension fund of fossil fuel assets. Mr. Trichter, an investment banker, argues he could run the pension fund better, and be a more independent check on a Democratic administration should Gov. Andrew Cuomo be reelected. He faults Mr. DiNapoli for paying underperforming hedge funds billions to manage portions of the pension fund, noting they lag behind simple index funds. Mr. DiNapoli says the hedge funds provide diversity.

Trichter and Dunlea both also say Mr. DiNapoli is too nice a guy for a watchdog role.

Anyone who doubts Mr. DiNapoli's watchdog chops need only look at his frequent clashes with the governor over audits. He has also balanced progressive values with a fiscally responsible approach, generally eschewing financially questionable divestment and instead using his power as a major investor to push for corporate responsibility, transparency and diversity.

Mr. DiNapoli has been an honest, competent comptroller. His challengers have not made a persuasive case for voters not to re-elect him.