NY state comptroller takes on Onondaga County comptroller

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli speaks during a news conference on Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A Republican county comptroller from Syracuse is challenging the incumbent Democratic state comptroller from Long Island for stewardship of New York’s $181 billion pension fund for public workers and the power to audit state and municipal finances.

Thomas DiNapoli, 60, has been state comptroller for six years. A longtime state assemblyman, he was first appointed to fill a vacancy, then beat a Wall Street investor in an election to win a four-year term.

His challenger on Tuesday is Robert Antonacci, 49, a certified public accountant and lawyer who is in his second term as Onondaga County’s elected comptroller. He says the power of the checkbook is the key to whether state programs such as economic development projects are delivering. Following the flow of money through politics is how to clean up corruption, he said.

According to DiNapoli, auditors during his term have identified waste and saved billions of dollars while steady stewardship has helped the pension fund rebound from the 2008 financial crisis and grow to a record size, paying benefits to 422,000 retirees and beneficiaries.

The contribution rate paid by state and local governments into the fund for 644,000 workers will decrease from 20.1 percent of salary to 18.2 percent for most in 2015-16. For police and firefighters, the rate will drop from 27.6 percent of payroll to 24.7 percent.

DiNapoli has the support of many of the state’s public employee unions.

Under a pilot program established this year, Antonacci is the first statewide candidate to pursue public campaign financing, which authorizes a 6-to-1 match of each dollar of eligible contributions, up to the first $175 someone donates.

The comptroller’s salary is $151,500.

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