The state should prepare an annual report detailing its infrastructure needs, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a speech outlining his debt and budget reform proposals yesterday. “It’s time to start producing an infrastructure needs report that pulls everything together, and that report should be tied to the state’s capital plan,” he said in prepared remarks. “Let’s make a blueprint for what we need to do to maintain and improve our infrastructure and make sure the state’s capital plan follows that blueprint.” The report would prioritize infrastructure needs and assess the state’s ability to pay for them. “Creating a priority list of infrastructure needs and attempting to make that as all-encompassing as possible would be something new and would be a valuable step,” Rockefeller Institute of Government deputy director Robert Ward said.DiNapoli said he plans to introduce a package of legislative proposals, along with a series actions his office can take independently, to make the state government more transparent and accountable. Those measures include: putting all off-budget spending in the state’s financial plan; publishing an annual expenditure report online that itemizes all spending by state agencies; requiring that the comptroller’s revenue forecast be binding on the governor and the Legislature when the office is called to make a forecast, and a stricter debt cap.He criticized public authority borrowing as a means to “avoid compliance with state contracting laws and audits” and called for state spending by public authorities to be subject to the same requirements as is agency spending.Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, D-Westchester, who chairs the Assembly’s Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions, had a mixed reaction to DiNapoli’s proposals. He disagreed with a proposal to make authority board member’s terms four years with staggered terms so that governors don’t have to wait many years before they can influence the boards’ composition. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” he said. “One of the purposes of authority reform is to create some kind of independence. I don’t think terms of authority directors should be coterminous with the governor’s.” Brodsky said that annual infrastructure and expenditure reports were good ideas but that revenue forecasting should be done by consensus. Matt Anderson, spokesman for the state Division of the Budget, said that Gov. Eliot Spitzer had taken steps with the Legislature to make the budget process more accountable. “We are still reviewing these proposals and we look forward to working with both the comptroller and Legislature to continue improving the budget process,” he said.
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