With the state budget deadline slowly creeping up on us, good government groups are pressuring Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders to not only pass the budget, but ethics reform legislation as well. Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman has more.
Good-government advocates are hopeful this is the year a host of long-sought ethics measures will pass. And while Albany is long known for half reforms or shunting ethics legislation all together, the advocates are pointing to Gov. Anderw Cuomo inclusion of all his ethics legislation in the budget as a strategy that will give him more leverage with state lawmakers.
"We want the package in there. The governor has said he's committed to that package, that's why he's put the whole thing in the budget and we think this is the best opportunity we've had to enact it into law," said Larry Norden, Deputy Director Brennan Center.
Cuomo is proposing improved oversight at the State Board of Elections as well as stronger transparency laws for political spending. The issue of oversight is a complex one, but advocates believe the Cuomo proposal can be made even stronger after negotiations.
I think it's a strong opening hand that the governor has with proposing an independent enforcement entity within the Board of Elections. But I'm sure over the course of the negotiations that can be made stronger," said Dick Dadey, Citizens Union Executive Director.
And then there's Cuomo's plan to publicly finance campaigns, which does not include an estimated cost.
Cuomo said, "With this budget I am also proposing a public financing system because I think it's inarguable that the amount of money in politics has created a number of difficult issues."
Advocates blamed Senate Republicans for a lack of progress on ethics reform. In a statement, GOP spokesman Scott Reif said, "Right now, we're focused on passing a responsible budget that cuts taxes and invests the state's resources in education and infrastructure so we can create new jobs and help hardworking families have a future here in New York."
"Yes, we do need money for education, we do need tax relief and in fact that's what they have said. However, all of those issues if you wrap them up, they all depend on campaign finance," said Barbara Bartoletti, League Of Women Voters Legislative Director.
Following a spate of corruption scandals at the state Capitol last year, the governor introduced a series of ethics measures including tighter bribery laws and stronger penalties for fraud. The governor also reiterated his support for public campaign financing. But lawmakers did not take up any of those measures. In response, the governor created the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption, which lawmakers are now challenging in state court.
Meanwhile Cuomo's $142 billion budget is due April 1.