New York State Comptroller Edward V. Regan last week asked voters to reject an $800 million jobs-creating bond act unless Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and the state Legislature "pledge" to accept fiscal reforms proposed by the comptroller.
Mr. Regan, speaking last week at the Albany Rotary Club, said the state's financial condition has worsened so much in recent years that voters should resist the bond act until the governor and the Legislature agree to pass a series of fiscal reforms that he has advocated during the past two legislative sessions.
This is not the first time Mr. Regan has opposed the state's debt practices. In 1990, he withheld support for a $1 billion environmental bond act that then went down to defeat on the November ballot.
The jobs bond act - also known as the Jobs for the New, New York Bond Act - is a key element in Mr. Cuomo's plan to revitalize the state's economy. The Legislature in July agreed to place the tax-exempt bonding program on the November ballot for voter approval.
Aides to Mr. Cuomo have said the bonding program, designed to provide state-sponsored financing for a series of infrastructure improvements, would create 100,000 jobs by the, year 2000 and about $9 billion in economic activity.
Press officials representing Mr. Cuomo and state Budget Director Patrick J. Bulgaro termed Mr. Regan's remarks a blatantly political move, designed to thwart what they called a worthy cause. Mr. Regan is a Republican and Mr. Cuomo is a Democrat.
"He's trying to hold us hostage," said David Egner, a spokesman for Mr. Cuomo. Mr. Regan is "saying ~I don't care if it costs the state 100,000 jobs.' This shows he has a huge ego and is only concerned with getting his own way."
But Mr. Regan said voters are in need of "an ironclad guarantee that the governor and the Legislature will support [his] legislation to limit the control of future borrowing."
The measures, submitted by the comptroller during the past two legislative sessions, would attempt to limit the sale of state-appropriated bonds, debt that circumvents the state constitution's voter-approval clause.
In recent years, the state's reliance on this form of debt has overshadowed its issuance of general obligation securities. Moody's Investors Service said the state has $17.5 billion of outstanding appropriated debt compared with $5.8 billion of outstanding GO securities.
The state's reliance on appropriated debt has also prompted a series of lawsuits by taxpayer activist Robert L. Schulz.
Under Mr. Regan's plan, the state would be required to wait 30 days after legislative approval before selling the bonds.
"The effect would be to foster debate and public attention, rather than passage of borrowing legislation in the dead of the night," the comptroller said.
Claudia Hutton, a spokeswoman for the state Budget Division, said the Cuomo administration supports "the idea of more sunshine" on the appropriated debt process. She added that the budget division is working to develop an alternative bill to the one proposed by Mr. Regan because it has not drawn enough legislative support.
Mr. Regan also said that voters are "fed up" with the fiscal practices of the governor and the Legislature.
To support his contention, Mr. Regan cited the results of a poll, which he said showed that "85% [of taxpayers] believe the state is now facing a fiscal crisis."
The poll, conducted by the New York City-based firm of Penn & Schoen Associates Inc., also showed that 78% of the taxpayers believe the state is confronted by a "long-term financial problem" and that "94% believe that only public pressure will reform the way our political leaders operate state government," Mr. Regan said.
The poll, which surveyed 805 registered voters in the state, contained a margin of error of 3.5%. Marvin G. Nailor, the comptroller's press secretary, said the poll cost $25,000 and was funded by Mr. Regan's re-election committee, also known as the "Ned Regan Support Committee."