N.Y. Comptroller Runoff Gives Nod to Challenger, Boost to Mayor

But tight budget will make it tough for winner in November

ALAN Havesi won't be ``Alan Who'' anymore.

Instead, the Queens Assemblyman easily defeated incumbent Elizabeth Holtzman in a runoff election for comptroller in which about 10 percent of registered Democrats voted.

Mr. Havesi, who ran unsuccessfully against Ms. Holtzman four years ago, now faces fusion candidate Herman Badillo, who is running with Republican Rudolph Giuliani in the November election. Havesi now joins Mayor David Dinkins and Mark Green, the candidate for public advocate, on the Democratic ballot.

Pollsters expect Mayor Dinkins may benefit from having Havesi and Green on the ticket. ``Dinkins gets a fresh ticket, he gets a little bit of a boost,'' says Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. In a poll last week, Marist found Havesi running ahead of Mr. Badillo 45 percent to 30 percent. But political consultant Norman Adler calls Badillo ``very competitive in this race - he is sort of the George Washington of borough politics.''

In the two-week campaign, Havesi pounded Holtzman over a city investigation that was critical of her for taking out a loan from a bank that was later made a co-manager of a city bond offering by Holtzman's office. Holtzman says she was not aware that a subsidiary of the bank was interested in the business when she borrowed money for her unsuccessful race for the US Senate last year.

Whoever is elected comptroller in the November election faces a daunting four years. The comptroller will have to audit agencies at a time of budget stringency. Dick Larkin, managing director of Standard & Poors, a rating agency, expects the city to have a $1.5 billion gap next year and $2 billion in 1995. ``The city has to address these kind of budget gaps,'' says Mr. Larkin, whose agency has said the outlook for the city's current A-minus investment rating is ``negative.''

The city has survived similar gaps in the past by reducing employment and maintaining a temporary surtax on its residents' income. ``It will have to consider increasing taxes in an already high tax environment or dramatically reducing spending beyond cuts the city has already implemented or a combination of the two,'' states Larkin.

The budget situation is likely to remain grim because the city has restructured its borrowings. The new structure lowered current interest costs, but added interest expense starting in 1997. Mayor David Dinkins has asked a task force to make recommendations on the budget in December.

As the city grapples with its financial problems, the new comptroller will audit agencies and issue reports on the city's performance. The Comptroller determines if the city can get the job done cheaper and smarter.

At his victory celebration on Tuesday night, Havesi said he would be an independent Comptroller no matter which party wins the mayoral election. ``I will be conciliatory when appropriate and critical when appropriate,'' he said.

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