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Wall Street Bonuses Rose 17%: Thomas DiNapoli

Wall Street bonuses rose 17 percent to $20.3 billion last year, but were still a third down from the level before the financial meltdown, Thomas DiNapoli, New York State comptroller, told CNBC Tuesday.

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Profits on Wall Street could exceed an unprecedented $55 billion for 2009 and the dollars generated by the industry help the state's bottom line, DiNapoli said.

However, he acknowledged that for the majority of Americans, the bonuses are a "bitter pill".

"People are still hurting, are still suffering," DiNapoli told "Squawk Box."

"The bonuses in and of itself are not going to solve our problem," he said, adding that other sectors of the US economy were still suffering.

Compensation at Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan increased by 31 percent, according to DiNapoli.

He said that the average taxable bonus rose to $123,850 in 2009 but that most top executives will not receive cash bonuses for the year.

The issue of bonuses for executives at top banks, which have been saved from collapse with billions of dollars in taxpayers' money, has sparked anger among politicians but also among the public, prompting many bank bosses to turn down cash payments.

Banks will need to trade in risky behavior for a more predictable profit stream, DiNapoli said.

"I think what we'd like to see is a Wall Street that is going to be profitable moving forward," he said. "Sustainable profits are better than the highs and lows."