The two candidates for New York State comptroller, who are locked in a bitter campaign for the state's second highest elective office, appear to agree on one thing: the need to toughen the state's debt reform plan.
During a debate yesterday sponsored by the Citizens Budget Commission, incumbent H. Carl McCall and challenger Herbert London traded shots on a number of key fiscal issues.
London, a Republican, says he can use existing law to alter the state's budget. McCall, a Democrat, said the comptroller has no budget authority other than the bully pulpit of his ofrice.
But on the issue of debt reform, both candidates appear to agree that the plan, passed last year by the legislature and supported by the governor, needs more work.
McCall helped push the debt reform proposal through the legislature as part of the state's fiscal 1995 budget. He has said that the proposal, which attempts to eliminate lower-rated appropriated debt for new state taxbacked revenue bonds, was the strongest proposal that the legislature would agree to.
The proposal, which must be approved once more by the legislature before it goes before voters, would allow the state to issue revenue debt without voter approval. The issuance level is indexed to total personal income in the state.
During the debate yesterday, when asked what fiscal reforms he would make if re-elected, McCall said: "The first is I'd like to get a real debt reform package passed. The one we have before us is not all I'd like it to be," adding that "it was the best we could do" at the time. McCall's spokesman Steven Greenberg said the comptroller will urge passage of the current proposal, but fight for additional improvements.
London also criticized the plan, but in harsher tones. During the debate, London said the debt reform proposal would make it difficult for the state to attract jobs by reducing taxes. Under' the plan, specific tax revenues would be dedicated to a new form of state debt, he said.
In addition, London said the plan would give the governor too much power in selling state debt without voter approval.
London said the proposal "violates the covenant" the government has with the taxpayers to first obtain voter approval before issuing bonds as required by the state constitution. The state, however, has legally sold bonds without a vote by issuing debt through its authorities.