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Gov. Cuomo to tout public financing of campaigns


Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo told liberal groups Monday that he will try to force a system of public financing of campaigns in New York through the executive budget he will unveil Tuesday.

Last week more than a dozen groups led by the Working Families Party, which is influential in Democratic politics, urged Cuomo to use his extensive budget powers to overcome opposition by Senate Republicans, according to the groups' letter first reported by Newsday.

"By including public financing of elections in the budget, Governor Cuomo has demonstrated national leadership," Karen Scharff of the Fair Elections for New York coalition said Monday. "The governor is showing he is serious about cleaning up Albany and fixing our broken political system. Public financing is essential to changing Albany's pay-to-play legal bribery culture and giving more power to the voters."

Cuomo's unusual approach of forcing policy in the state budget could secure public funding for campaigns in New York, a longtime Democratic goal. Cuomo supports a voluntary system in which $6 in state funds would be used to match every $1 a candidate raises to reduce the influence of big donors and to allow more New Yorkers to consider political runs, regardless of their means.

"New Yorkers have waited long enough for action on curbing corruption and reducing the undue influence and role of campaign money in state government," the letter stated.

Senate Republicans have blocked the measure for years. They say the millions of dollars to fund the system would be better spent on schools, tax breaks or other measures.

The groups signing the letter included Common Cause NY, the New York Public Interest Research Group, the State Council of Churches, the Long Island Progressive Coalition and the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce. The groups also have been buoyed by the rise of liberal Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Cuomo, who is seeking to push his fourth-year agenda through the Legislature this election year, would start the public financing system in 2016, the next legislative election year. He would delay the system for statewide elected officials until their next election in 2018.

A Siena College poll released Monday showed 64 percent of New York voters support public financing of campaigns, with 30 percent opposed.

The poll also shows strong support for many of Cuomo other 2014 priorities. More than three in four voters support suspending a the license of driver under 21 years old for a year for texting while driving, expanding prekindergarten statewide, revoking the license of drivers with three convictions for driving while intoxicated, and $2 billion in borrowing to bring more technology to all classrooms.

The poll showed 57 percent of respondents would vote to re-elect Cuomo, while 33 percent said they would prefer someone else.