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Democratic State Senators Shift Their Focus To Campaign Finance Reform

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After losing significant battles this legislative session, including redistricting and the creation of a less generous pension tier, State Senate Democrats are pushing for campaign finance reform, but Governor Andrew Cuomo has not publicly expressed confidence it will get done this year. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

Saying Albany has a culture of "pay to play," State Senate Democrats are backing campaign finance reform.

Democrats support a new system, modeled on New York City's system, that uses public matching funds on smaller donations. That will cut down the countless hours they now spend raising money.

"It's time consuming. It's often degrading. It consumes time where you could be doing other things," said Brooklyn Senator Eric Adams.

According to the center for working families, 6 percent of campaign donations are for $250 or less. With reform, that would jump to 65 percent. In other words, there would be more individuals donors and special interests would have less influence.

But Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he is not sure there can be a deal before the end of the session.

"Campaign finance, which is going to be difficult to get an agreement, I think if you listen to the two sides of the issue on this, you'll get a sense right away of the gap," Cuomo said on April 25.

Senate Democrats said it could get done, if Cuomo made it a priority.

"We need him to fight as hard on this issue as he did on marriage [equality], as he did on Tier VI, as he did on gambling. No matter how any of us feel on any of those issues, he stepped up," said Manhattan Senator Thomas Duane.

In a statement, State Senate Republicans, who control the upper house said, "We're not surprised that the senate Democrats, who nearly bankrupted this state, would want to force New Yorkers to spend $200 million in taxpayer money to fund political campaigns rather than investing those dollars in our schools or providing incentives to help businesses create jobs."

"We don't need a majority of the senate conference to support this. We didn't get a majority of the Republican conference supporting marriage equality. Senate Democrats provided 29 votes for that and it became reality," said Manhattan-Brooklyn Senator Daniel Squadron.

Good government groups also strongly support campaign finance reform, but they just fought a long and bruising battle over redistricting, and some were less than satisfied with the outcome.

Insiders say it is unclear how much sway they have over the governor on this issue.

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