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Push to Enact Campaign Finance Reform Falls Short in Budget Cycle

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The push to enact campaign finance reform once again fell short this budget cycle, as leaders instead agreed to take up the issue later in the session and to launch a pilot program for the state comptroller's race only, a compromise that was blasted by good government groups. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.

With support from the governor, the Assembly and state Senate co-leader Jeff Klein, it looked like this was the year to implement campaign finance reform in Albany, including a system of public financing. Instead, advocates have been left disappointed.

"What we're seeing in the budget as it's printed is just not adequate in any way, shape or form,” said Susan Lerner of Common Cause New York.

What is in the budget is a pilot program for public campaign financing, but only for this year's state comptroller's race, in which Thomas DiNapoli is up for re-election. Advocates have rejected the pilot idea, in part, they say, because the state Board of Elections isn't equipped to administer the program on such a short time frame.

"The corruption has been centered in the legislature. The comptroller-only solution is really a solution to yesterday's problem," said Alex Camarda of Citizens Union.

While a broader package is not in the budget, Klein did work with state Senate Republicans on a proposal to be taken up later in the session. It would create a system similar to New York City's, which matches small individual contributions with public dollars on a 6-to-1 basis. The program would be phased in by 2020, but there is no guarantee that the plan has the Republican votes needed to pass, and some are blaming Governor Andrew Cuomo for not putting more political muscle behind the issue.

"The governor's been very effective when he wants to get things done, and it really raises the question why he says he wants this but he's unable to deliver," Lerner said. "We're really quite surprised."

Over the weekend, Cuomo faulted the state Senate.

"Political sentiment in the Senate did not, at this time, support a more robust political finance system, but it’s something that we'll continue to work on," he said. "It's a priority."

To advocates of reform, however, it's perhaps not enough of a priority.

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