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Proposal for Publicly Financed Campaigns a Contentious Part of State Budget Talks

3/11/14 · By Zack Fink · NY1

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to create a new system of publicly financed campaigns is becoming one of the most contentious issues in budget talks that are heating up this month. NY1’s Zack Fink filed the following report.

As the budget starts to take shape, City Comptroller Scott Stringer was in the state Capitol Monday for meetings, and to also talk up campaign finance reform.

“I think it’s an actual disgrace that New York State has not embraced campaign finance,” Stringer said.

After failing to overhaul the state’s campaign finance system last year, the governor decided to put public funding in his budget proposal. The question now is how hard Cuomo intends to fight behind closed doors to keep it there.

“We have high expectations that he will fight till the very end, that it keeps in the budget, that it stays,” said Jessica Wisneski of Citizen Action. “And it must be on his must-have list.”

Comprehensive campaign finance reform faces steep hurdles in the state Senate, however, where Republicans control what bills come to the floor.

“We have overall, as a conference, the Republican conference, including myself, been against public financing of campaigns,” said state Sen. Tom Libous of Binghamton, N.Y.

Supporters of campaign finance reform point to New York city’s 6 to 1 matching system with public dollars as a model for success.

“I wouldn’t be the the city comptroller for New York were it not for the public finance system,” Stringer said. “I ran against an opponent who spent close to $11 million in nine weeks.”

State Senate Republicans, though, answer to different constituents.

“People don’t care in my region if politicians go out and raise money to run for public office. They do care if their hard-earned tax dollars are being used to finance public campaigns,” Libous said. “Maybe they don’t care in New York City, but they care in the southern tier of New York.”

Cuomo has assured the advocates that he is committed to public financing, but the budget is often fluid until there is a final deal. Supporters say its prospects for passage are better than they have been in years.