Tuesday, April 18, 2017

NY Gov. Gives Up on Ethics Reform Again

During an egg hunt at the Executive Mansion on Saturday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo basically said Ethics and Political Reform won't be addressed in the remaining two months of this year's Legislative session. "If we don't get it done in the budget, it means you didn't have the political will to get it done," the Governor said. "Ethics reform, for example, I don't see that happening with this Legislature. I'll respond to the initiatives that the Legislature comes up with, but frankly everything big that we wanted to get done we got done in the budget."

That's a marked departure from what Cuomo said fewer than four weeks prior. "We're going to try like heck," he said at a March event, answering a question about the likelihood of Ethics Reform this year. "It's not necessarily a budget discussion. The budget is about finances. If there's a Policy matter related to finances then I try to include it because the budget is a good vehicle to reconcile as much as you can. Many of the democracy issues [under discussion], we're going to take up after the budget."

Cuomo's shift isn't just another sign that issues like early Voting, campaign Finance Reform, and Restrictions on Outside Income for Legislators are extreme long shots this year. It also represents another shift in his Philosophy about what belongs in the Budget and what doesn't.

Cuomo said he’s basically done dealing with the Legislature this year now that the State Budget has been Approved, and will instead focus his time in the remaining months of the Legislative session on building things.

The Governor said Ethics Reform was a top Priority as recently as November 2016, and a Poll last year found 97% of New Yorkers considered Combating Public Corruption a Top Priority. Good-Government Advocacy groups have repeatedly said it is the Governor’s job to Lead on the Issue, but on Saturday, Cuomo threw up his hands.

“They will not do it,” he said of Legislators. “Their position is, we did it, we did more ethics reform than ever before, which is true: there is more disclosure, there is more transparency. My point is there’s more to do; there is no political will to do it.”

Instead, Cuomo said he would focus on State efforts to Rebuild Airports and create a new Arrival Hall near Penn Station. “My top priority now is getting the economy running upstate and rebuilding infrastructure all across the state. … we have the financial commitment, but now these things have to happen,” the Governor said. “You have to stay after these things. It’s like you’re doing a construction project in your home: If you don’t stay on the contractor every day, they’re going to be late, and if you don’t question every change order it’s going to be over budget. So that’s what I’m going to do.”

And the Governor suggested that wouldn’t mean much time in Albany, telling reporters, “I’m going to let you guys chase the rumor mill in the Capitol from floor to floor.”

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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