The New York State Common Retirement Fund reached an all-time high of $160.7 billion in 2013, State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli noted today in a release summarizing his office’s major accomplishments in 2013. Other notable highlights include several convictions from the fight against public corruption, statewide efforts to deal with local fiscal stress, returning $412 million in lost money to New Yorkers through the Unclaimed Funds program, and his continued push for campaign finance reform.
Leading the Third Largest Public Pension Fund in the Nation
- Announced the New York State Common Retirement Fund (Fund) closed the State Fiscal Year 2012-2013 at an all-time high value of $160.7 billion, with a 10.4 percent return.
- Noted an independent analysis of the pension fund by Funston Advisory Services praised DiNapoli’s reforms after taking office and found the Fund to be well-run and operating with an industry-leading level of transparency.
- Released a progress report on the Fund’s $1 billion In-State Private Equity Investment Program, which has invested $684 million in more than 250 New York companies, another $400 million available for investing, and a 20 percent return on exited investments.
- Continued to grow the Emerging Managers program to promote opportunities for minority- and women-owned business and hosted largest-ever emerging manager conference.
- Urged companies to be more accountable and responsible to shareholders. Notable examples include:
- Filed a first-of-its-kind shareholder lawsuit against Qualcomm to disclose its political spending and later reached agreement with the company that led to it being named among the most transparent corporations in the country on the topic.
- Pressed AT&T to publish transparency reports on types of governmental requests for customer information the company fulfills.
- Reached agreement with Dunkin Donuts to use greater amounts of sustainable palm oil.
- Worked to ensure worker safety and sustainable business practices throughout the supply chain at Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond and Ralph Lauren as well as reached agreement with five companies to implement sexual orientation non-discrimination policies.
Ensuring Appropriate Use of Public Resources
- Completed more than 440 audits of local government operations, identifying nearly $106.2 million in savings and $700,000 in fraud or inappropriate expenses. Another 1,093 reviews were completed of tax cap calculations in local communities.
- Conducted 159 audits of the operations, contracts and spending of state agencies and public authorities.
- Continued an initiative to examine private special education contractors in New York state, which revealed a pattern of unsupported expenses and other abuses. Successfully pushed for legislation requiring the Comptroller’s office to audit every provider and other critical changes.
- Audited the STAR program and found significant shortcomings in the program, resulting in duplicate and improper exemptions that led to major program changes statewide.
- Pressed for more accountability with economic development dollars with both IDAs and LDCs, including advocating for legislation for more accountability and transparency for LDCs.
- Uncovered corruption in state and local government, resulting in the recoupment of more than $2.5 million and 30 arrests.
- Completed numerous joint investigations with NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman through the Joint Task Force on Public Integrity to combat corruption and protect public funds. Results include multiple arrests and seven convictions including the felony convictions of a former state senator and co-conspirators for member item fraud, the indictment of individuals for theft and money laundering in Monroe County, and the indictment of several individuals for millions of dollars stolen at the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.
- Increased scrutiny of New York’s public authorities through a series of reports examining salaries, borrowing and specific authority operations including the New York State Power Authority.
Sounding the Alarm on the Growing Fiscal Stress in Our Local Communities
- Launched a Fiscal Stress Monitoring System, based on nearly two dozen fiscal and environmental indicators, to rate communities on their fiscal condition, sending an early warning to those in trouble.
- Issued nearly a dozen fiscal profiles of New York cities.
- Initiated a series of reports on the causes of fiscal stress in communities and trends related to sales tax, federal and state aid, and property tax exemptions among other issues.
- Provided training to more than 6,000 local government officials on accounting operations and managing finances during times of financial stress.
Fighting for Campaign Finance Reform
- For the seventh straight year, proposed legislation for public financing of Comptroller’s races and advocated for full campaign finance reform and public financing of all statewide campaigns.
Managing the New York State and Local Retirement System
- Announced employer contribution rates will decline for the first time in four years in State Fiscal Year 2014-15 (0.8 percent of payroll for the Employee Retirement System and 1.3 percent of payroll for Police and Fire Retirement System) because of strong investment returns.
- Paid out nearly $9.3 billion in retirement benefits for approximately 413,000 members in State Fiscal Year 2012-13, of which nearly 80 percent remains in New York.
- Launched a major project to overhaul the New York State and Local Retirement System benefits processing and other support systems.
Pushing for Government Effectiveness and Efficiency While Speaking Out Against Fiscal Gimmicks
- Reviewed nearly 23,000 contract transactions valued at $109 billion in an average of 11 days.
- Processed more than 30 million payments and financial transactions, or on average approximately 115,000 a business day.
- Prevented or recovered approximately $84 million in inappropriate and duplicate payments for such areas as tax refunds, unemployment benefits, workers compensation benefits and more.
- Processed $15 billion in payroll checks for more than 250,000 employees in approximately 300 agency locations in State Fiscal Year 2012-13.
- Approved the $3.14 billion Tappan Zee Bridge contract in 2013 and called on the Thruway Authority to be transparent about how it will finance the bridge.
- Refunded $181 million in state general obligation bonds, generating an estimated savings of $29 million.
- Reported on the state’s increasingly high debt levels, shrinking debt capacity and continuing challenges to achieving structural budget balance.
- Warned of weaknesses in the legislation to reorganize LIPA.
- Released reports on the state and New York City budgets, MTA capital plan, Wall Street, the increased use of overtime in state agencies, public and private partnerships, the state’s Brownfields program, the DREAM Act, as well as economic reports on New York City neighborhoods and boroughs.
- Enhanced DiNapoli’s transparency website openbooknewyork.com to include millions of payments made by the state, which is updated daily.
- Introduced a package of relief measures recently signed into law to assist homeowners and local governments hit by Superstorm Sandy. This included allowing the adjustment of property assessments on damaged properties, authorizing the issuance of storm bonds for short-term financing to pay for storm costs, extending the repayment of inter-fund advances and easing restrictions on the use of reserve funds by local governments and school districts to pay for Sandy-related expenses.
- Launched a review of more than $400 million in state payments made in response to Superstorm Sandy to make sure state agencies received goods and services at the appropriate price.