Capital New York:
Governor Andrew Cuomo laid out a five-point plan to combat corruption in the State Legislature during a speech Monday at New York University, promising to use his power in the state budget process to enact new reforms, even if it means shutting down the government.
“A governor’s maximum leverage, vis-a-vis the Legislature, is the budget process. In that exchange, the governor can effectively say to the Legislature, ‘Either pass my budget, or shut down the government,” Cuomo said, recalling the federal shutdown that occurred during his time working for the Clinton administration. “It was ugly, but sometimes ugly is necessary.”
The governor’s speech comes shortly after Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested by federal law enforcement officials and accused of taking millions in bribes and kickbacks as part of his work with two outside law firms. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, whose office is prosecuting the case, said he is continuing to investigate lawmakers in Albany, which he has deemed a “cauldron of corruption."
Asked after the speech if he had “any clue of what was to come regarding Sheldon Silver,” Cuomo denied any prior knowledge.
“Absolutely not,” said Cuomo, whose Moreland Commission probed legislators' finances before it was disbanded. “No one had any clue. I was totally shocked on a number of levels.”
At the heart of Cuomo’s proposals are changes he’s previously presented: the creation of more robust campaign finance restrictions, alongside a public financing system and far greater disclosure of legislators' outside income.
The governor also said he would push for a change to the state constitution that would deprive a convicted public official of a pension, end the use of campaign funds for personal use and curtail legislative “per diem” payments to cover only actual expenses.