We didn't like the way Thomas DiNapoli got his job as state comptroller - appointed by and from the Legislature after Alan Hevesi quit, despite then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer's plan for a non-political process.
We do, however, like some of what Mr. DiNapoli has done since then. He audited tons of state agencies and local governments, including every school district. He worked to guard the state pension fund from the pay-to-play corruption of which Mr. Hevesi was guilty. He has issued press releases calling out the Legislature and governor on their inability to make deep spending cuts or pass a budget on time.
But Harry Wilson, the challenger here in Mr. DiNapoli's first election, promises, believably, to go much further in taking on the Capitol and state agencies, rooting out wasteful public spending and making the comptroller's office a leader in New York reformation. As a private-sector lion, Mr. Wilson has an excellent background of turning failing companies around, including General Motors. He was the only Republican on President Obama's rehabilitation team, and a group he led cut $10 billion in costs in GM's restructuring plan.
New York needs a comptroller with the toughness to really cut costs without bowing to public-employee unions or lawmakers. Mr. Wilson has required sacrifices from union workers in the past, including from those of Fibermark, a paper company in Lowville that was bankrupt when Mr. Wilson took it over. Those employees lost some benefits they had enjoyed, but their jobs - set to be eliminated with the plant's closure - were saved.
Mr. Wilson's vision for New York employees is to start new hires at a new Tier VI, with benefits more in line with the private sector - retirement more like a 401(k) than the pensions senior employees get now.
The comptroller is the sole trustee of the state pension fund to ensure those pensions endure. Mr. Wilson, as a lifelong investor, is better suited for that task than Mr. DiNapoli, and he would add assurance with an independent advisory panel to help him make investment decisions.
Mr. Wilson's humble roots in Johnstown, his Harvard MBA and his success in the private sector all seem like good qualifications for this job. Even better is the fact that he does not owe loyalty to the Capitol's power brokers. Mr. DiNapoli cannot say that; he was an Assemblyman for 20 years and was appointed comptroller with major support from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. He is being backed for election by public employee unions.
For the reasons above, we optimistically endorse Harry Wilson for comptroller.