State racks up debt

Anyone familiar with the old Popeye cartoon remembers the character Wimpy J. Wellington, a portly fellow with an insatiable appetite for hamburgers but a limited ability to pay for them. Inevitably, Wimpy would utter his catchphrase, “I’ll gladly repay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” Inevitably, before the end of the episode, some poor sap would let Wimpy borrow money for his hamburgers.

The cartoon never shows Wimpy paying back the unsuspecting diner patron who buys his meal. If only real life worked that way.

This year, New York state’s government borrowed $10.6 billion to buy metaphorical hamburgers. New York’s taxpayers are the poor saps who will pay for the state’s gluttonous appetite for spending every Tuesday for the foreseeable future. State Assemblyman Andrew Goodell recently told the Post-Journal of Jamestown that about 25 percent of the state’s income and sales tax receipts are spent paying debt service.

What should be particularly galling is the borrowing largely happens outside of the state budget and with no voter approval. State agencies borrow money, and then the money is transferred back to the state. Loan repayment is through the state budget each year — roughly $9.6 billion in debt service was included in this year’s budget, or $3.1 billion more than the entire Oklahoma state budget.

The state would be better off if it created budgets that relied less on borrowing. Future generations shouldn’t be burdened paying for today’s projects.

That would mean fewer hamburgers, too. We suggest doing with fewer economic development grants, “free” college tuition and other treats the governor hands out. We have to pay for these somehow, and doing without them might make New Yorkers — tomorrow’s as well as today’s — a little harder-working and healthier.