Faso, former Molloy student, vies for comptroller job

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“To quote that great financial genius Mick Jagger,” Faso said, “‘You can’t always get what you want.’”

But to paraphrase...

By Courtney Dentch

In these precarious economic times, Republican state comptroller hopeful John Faso applies to the Rolling Stones school of finance.

“To quote that great financial genius Mick Jagger,” Faso said, “‘You can’t always get what you want.’”

But to paraphrase the song, Faso said New York state still has a lot to work with, economically speaking.

“The comptroller’s job is what can we do with what we have,” he said.

Faso, a GOP state assemblyman from Cobleskill outside Albany and alumnus of Archbishop Molloy High School in Briarwood, is seeking the state comptroller office, and he is relying on his experience as a fiscally minded legislator to get the job.

“The comptroller’s job is one that’s always been very interesting and intriguing to me,” he said in an interview with the TimesLedger. “The state is going to be in difficult times next year, as is the city. We need responsible budgeting.”

Faso chose former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for his campaign chairman and will face the winner of the Democratic primary election. Former city Comptroller Alan Hevesi; William Mulrow, senior vice president at Gabelli Asset Management, a financial services group; and Anthony Nanula, city comptroller in Buffalo, N.Y. are vying for the Democratic spot.

One of Faso’s top priorities in turning the state’s economic tide is to establish a capital budget plan for the state that lays out what projects, such as infrastructure, building and roadway improvements, the state can afford to spend money on. New York is one of the only major states that does not have a capital plan, he said, and funds are allocated for projects on an ad-hoc basis.

“If you did a family budget like that, and I spend money on one thing, my wife spends money on another thing and our son spends on another thing, we may not be able to really afford it,” he said.

Although Faso made several attempts to establish a capital plan during his years in the Assembly, the efforts never gained support in the legislature, he said.

“The Assembly is not a fertile ground for fiscal responsibi­lity,” Faso said.

One example is so-called member items, discretionary funds given to state senators, assemblymen and assemblywomen to distribute to community organizations in their districts, Faso said. In the state Legislature, $300 million is set aside for this, he said.

“That may be fiscally beyond what we can afford in coming years,” Faso said. “With the slowing economy in the late winter and the spring, the state shouldn’t be spending their surplus.”

Reforming spending policies like this is a better option for the state economy than raising taxes, Faso said. A tax hike would only put a strain on residents and businesses, and possibly encourage entrepreneurs to move outside the state or city, he said.

“It potentially creates an exodus that does not behoove the city or the state,” he said. “The city is the engine of the state economy. What do we do to keep jobs here?”

As comptroller, Faso would also use the state’s power as an investor to encourage reform in public accountancy to prevent corporate debacles such as the bankruptcies of Enron and WorldCom, he said. This includes increasing disciplinary measures for state and federal accountancy boards, and investing in companies that can make decisions completely independent from their boards, he said.

“There is a tendency to throw everything in the same basket,” he said. “We have to get these reforms.”

But the economy is in a different place than it was during the technology bubble, and state residents need to realize that, he said.

“The American economy is still very strong,” he said. “We need to scale back the expectations of what we’ll be getting from investments.”

And unlike some chief executive officers at failing companies, Faso promised to be honest with the state.

“The comptroller’s job is not about headlines but bottom lines,” he said. “I’ll play it straight and call it straight.”

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 7:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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