Cuomo says reform is a priority, but not the first priority

Dec 18, 2013

The new legislative session is just a few weeks away. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he’ll still make anti-corruption measures a high priority as he did in 2013, but he’ll likely deal with economic issues, like proposed tax cuts, first.  

Cuomo tried unsuccessfully to get the legislature to enact reforms to the state’s dysfunctional campaign finance system. When they adjourned for the year back in June without acting he created an anti-corruption commission, using his powers under the state’s Moreland Act, and asked them to report recommendations before the end of the year.

Yet in an end of the year cabinet meeting where the governor and his aides listed the highlights of 2013, the Moreland Commission and the entire subject of government corruption received just a one sentence mention.

The Moreland Commission report, which recommends adopting public financing of campaigns and an enforcement overhaul at the state Board of Elections, was released with little fanfare on a Monday evening, after the 6 p.m. newscasts had begun.

In contrast, the governor braved a snowstorm to attend the release of his tax commission report on Long Island a few days later. The tax commission’s recommendations were part of a featured presentation by Cuomo’s budget director at the end of the year cabinet meeting.

Cuomo was asked whether he would push early in the 2014 session to achieve campaign finance and other reforms. He said economic issues and tax cutting may at first take precedence.

“Obviously the budget comes first, so there’s more emphasis on the economic issues up front,” said Cuomo, who continues to consider the Moreland Commission recommendations for reform a top tier priority.

Good government reform groups say there’s time for Cuomo and the legislature to work out a reform package very early in January, even before the budget presentation is due in the middle of the month. Karen Scharff, with Citizen Action, urges the governor to act quickly.

“It’s now really important that the governor move forward strongly,” said Scharff. “And that the legislative leaders join him in that.”

They point out that last year Cuomo and the legislature passed gun control legislation on the very first day of their session, a full week before the budget presentation was due.