Former alternative investments executive Harry Wilson has a long way to go if he is to be elected New York state’s comptroller in November. But incumbent Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s fellow Democrats may be conspiring to help the Republican Wilson.
New York Gov. David Paterson—who is not running for reelection—and the state’s Democratic-controlled legislature are working on a controversial plan to close the state’s yawning budget gap by allowing the state and municipalities to effectively borrow from the state’s public pension fund. And Wilson, who worked for Silver Point Partners, the Blackstone Group and Clayton Dubilier & Rice, wasted no time pointing the finger at his opponent.
“Hands off the state pension fund,” Wilson said. “Borrowing against the fund to make up a shortfall is fiscal madness.”
DiNapoli, who initially held his tongue on the plan, has since moved to distance himself from it. “Let me be very clear: The pension fund will not be used to balance the budget.”
“Shame on those individuals who are playing politics, trying to mislead taxpayers and scare members and retirees who rely on the fund for their financial security,” DiNapoli added. “The fund,” the New York State Common Retirement Fund, “is not a political football.”
But Wilson shot back that DiNapoli himself had backed such a plan last year, only to see it defeated in the legislature.
“Our unelected state comptroller’s office is now dubiously suggesting that he has not been briefed on the governor’s proposal, yet he proposed a nearly identical plan himself a year ago,” he said.
Wilson is widely seen as the Republican’s best hope to win a statewide election in heavily Democratic New York. But he trails DiNapoli in the most recent Siena Research Institute poll by 19 percentage points. Still, only 23% of voters want to see DiNapoli, who took over from disgraced former Comptroller Alan Hevesi after he resigned in 2006.