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Gannett’s Politics on the Hudson
Following a news conference on the Assembly’s expected passage of the New York DREAM Fund, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver fielded questions from reporters on three major issues facing the state Legislature this year—campaign-finance reform, the minimum wage and whether teacher evaluations should be made public.
Like Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Silver said he believed the teacher evaluation issue would be resolved by the end of session in June, with public access likely limited to parents of students.
When it comes to campaign finance reform, Silver said he’d be open to a bill that does not include an option for public financing, but made clear he believes it is the best option to counteract wealthy candidates and a Supreme Court allowing unlimited spending by Super PACs.
Senate Republicans are opposed to a public-financing system. Silver has proposed one that would match small donations at a 6-to-1 rate.
“We’re open to it, but the true bill would be a public-financing option,” Silver said. “One of the problems with it is the Supreme Court allows for Super PACs, No. 1. No. 2, it allows wealthy candidates unlimited expenditures, and that’s something that we really have to come to grips with. So, that’s the difficulty—limiting other people.”
When it comes to the minimum wage, Silver said Senate Republicans are going to have to come to the realization that there is widespread support for an increase, according to polls. Silver has proposed increasing the wage to $8.50 an hour and indexing it to the rate of inflation; Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, has labelled it a “job killer.”
“I can’t tell you what the Senate Republicans will do,” Silver said. “All I know is in an election year, they’re going to have to look and realize that 75 to 80 percent of the people across this state support that issue.”