Excerpts from New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli Inauguration
Prepared by Neal Tepel
January 17, 2011
Remarks from 1/9/11 at Cooper Union Great Hall in New York City
We are here at the historic Cooper Union. This remarkable college was the inspiration of a great New Yorker and part time Long Islander, Peter Cooper. Inventor, businessman, civic leader and presidential candidate at age 85, Cooper had little formal education. But with industry and determination, he became a leading American of the 19th century. He conceived of this institute as a free school to teach the mechanical arts and science to working class men and women.
We're gathered in the Great Hall, in the very place where on February 27th 1860, a Western lawyer, and aspiring candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, came to the home turf of his leading competitor to deliver an address. Abraham Lincoln was an unlikely presidential contender. He had served just one term in the Congress and was defeated for re-election.
The very first budget analysis I submitted as comptroller four years ago identified that New York was on a course with spending that was unsustainable. We will look to Washington for national policies to get our economy to improve and grow jobs, but there is much that we can do that is in our control to better manage our state's finances.
The strength of the Comptroller's office lies in what we say, what we examine and what we report. We must be the voice of measured and thoughtful analysis of state and municipal finances and spending, rising above the partisan battles of the day. Our audits will focus on high impact areas: Medicaid, the MTA, the Long Island Power Authority, school district and special district expenditures.
The new responsibility given to my office to oversee public authority contracts will be utilized to scrutinize these entities that have operated in the shadows for too long. And I will use our Open Book New York website to give the public even more information on how authorities are spending our money.
The fact is that the average pension for ERS members is approximately $18,000. And for many that pension is the difference between affording to stay in New York, spending those dollars here, and moving away. Let me be clear: I strongly support the defined benefit pension system. It's the most efficient way to manage pooled capital to provide retiree benefits.
It is time to reduce the corrosive influence of money in our election campaigns. If this is the year for new ethics legislation, for that effort to be true, this must also be the year for campaign finance reform and the establishment of public financing of elections. The opportunity to compete for elected office must not be limited to the wealthy self-funders and elected officials should spend more time governing and less time fundraising.
Let me mention one other overdue reform in our laws. At my direction, the retirement system recognizes for benefit purposes same-sex marriages performed in states and countries where they are valid. The time is now for New York State law to include marriage equality, let this year be the year it happens.
Now I've run an election or two before, but 2010 was something else. The journey for me that began with my election to the Mineola Board of Education almost 39 years ago has taken many twists and turns. It seems many of the pundits expected last year to be my final chapter. I was diced and sliced, outspent and under-appreciated by most editorial writers.
My special thanks to the women and men of labor. You proved people power still matters even in the face millions of dollars in negative media advertising. I'm grateful to each of you that you've come here today to witness this ceremony. I draw my strength from you— family, friends, colleagues in government and politics, fellow New Yorkers.
Thank you, New York, for showing that the American Dream continues to live for my family and that for people who give their children the simple values of hard work, honesty and playing by the rules, anything is possible, even election to statewide office.