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Max & Murphy: State Comptroller on Bullying, Billionaires and the Budget

Mar 14, 2019 |

Hundreds of New York City schools reported absolutely zero incidents of bullying in the 2016-2017 school year, according to an audit by the office of the State Comptroller that looked into implementation of a 2012 law meant to track harassment and mistreatment in classrooms.

That could indicate a remarkable lack of discord among students.

“Wouldn’t that be nice if that were the case?” Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli asked, with a measure of irony, on Wednesday on WBAI’s Max & Murphy Show. “But it’s safe to say it’s not the case. When you’re talking about in the school year ending in 2017, 570 schools out of 1600 schools – no incidents at all for the entire school year? It kind of strains credibility.”

DiNapoli’s audit found confusion at schools over what constituted bullying and a tendency to enter incidents into the tracking system late, if at all. In a response to the audit, the city Department of Education took issue with some of the comptroller’s findings and indicated that policy changes had already been made to address others.

Bullying isn’t the only issue DiNapoli has weighed in on of late—his office was recently asked to decide whether the revenue estimates in the legislatures budget or the far lower ones in the governor’s were more accurate. The comptroller’s projections came in between the two. That number, while important, might be less significant than the larger economic picture it reflects.

“Most of those who look at numbers suggest we’re going into a lower growth mode. It certainly is our expectation from an investment perspective with our pension fund. We’re seeing some signs of slowdown in the state’s economy and slowdown at the national level as well. Part of it is we’ve had a strong recovery after the depths of the recession. So the news still for New York as a whole is positive because our economy, particularly driven by New York City’s economy, is strong relative to many other states,” DiNapoli said.

“As we move forward in 2019, it’s a less certain terrain. If trade deals get worked out with China, that could change some of the outlook. There are so many things happening from a geopolitical point of view around the world,” he added, including Brexit. “It’s fair to say NY is still in a strong position, but we do see slower growth in terms of the economy, slower growth in terms of revenue coming to the state as well.”

When Cuomo and DiNapoli announced earlier this year a $2.3 billion shortfall in revenues against projections, the governor chalked it up to wealthy residents leaving the state as a result of changes in federal law that limit the deductibility of local and state taxes. Asked if there was any evidence of that, DiNapoli replied:

“I think it’s a combination of factors. We probably need more data from the Department of Taxation and Finance. One point the governor made is 1 percent of New York taxpayers carry 46 percent of the personal income tax revenue that comes to the state. So the reality is if you lose even a handful of those billionaires or multi-millionaires, those who have two or three houses somewhere else and can pretty quickly change their legal address and avoid New York taxes, it does have an impact. Anecdotally, we did lose some of those high wealth folks in response to the tax changes. … My instinct tells me the governor was on the right track, that the biggest piece of the shortfall was the response to the adjustment in federal tax reform.”

Hear our conversation below, or listen to the full show, which includes an update on criminal-justice reform from Legal Aid’s Tina Luongo.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli

March 13, 2019: Full Show

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