- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 18, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Advocates for public campaign financing said Tuesday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s inclusion of election reforms in his budget proposal give them their best shot for success after decades of inaction.

A half-dozen good-government advocates held a news conference at the state Capitol aiming to keep up pressure on Cuomo and state lawmakers as they consider a broad set of election law changes. Cuomo in his budget proposed tougher election law enforcement, tighter contribution limits and a voluntary public financing proposal that would match each private dollar contributed with six in matching public funds up to $175.

The proposal is based on New York City’s model and is designed to make candidates less dependent on large contributions.

Prized by Democrats, public financing is opposed by Republicans who share control of the state Senate. The Republicans argue public financing would divert government funds from other needs, like schools.

Cuomo took the unusual step this year of including public financing and other election measures in his budget proposal. Advocates say that makes it harder for opponents to dismiss the proposals - as long as Cuomo insists on their inclusion in the budget due April 1.

“We have never been in a stronger position to enact this than we are today,” said Dick Dadey of Citizens Union. “The governor having taken the step of putting it into the budget, it makes it much more real in the negotiations than it has been before because they have to talk about it. Then they have to act to take it out of the budget.”

The advocates hope that Senate Republicans will be forced to consent to Cuomo’s proposals as part of the behind-closed-doors horse trading during budget negotiations.

Still, there was no sign Tuesday that the Senate GOP was prepared to soften its stance.

“We continue to oppose wasting $200 million or more in taxpayer money on the campaigns of politicians, including the negative television commercials and robocalls people hate,” spokesman Scott Reif said in an email.

Reif said the conference is focused on passing a responsible budget that cuts taxes and invests in education and infrastructure.

Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group said an item in Cuomo’s budget to create a new election law enforcement officer would be particularly hard for opponents to dislodge because it is included in an appropriations bill. The governor’s budget includes $5.3 million for 11 new staff members reporting to a chief enforcement officer, whom the governor would appoint.

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