- Associated Press - Monday, February 2, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday said he would not sign a budget for the state this year that doesn’t include a plan for legislative ethics reform, drawing a line in the sand on the same day the leader of the state Assembly was letting go of his position following an arrest on federal corruption charges.

Cuomo invoked his recently deceased father, progressive former Gov. Mario Cuomo, frequently in his speech on ethics in government at New York University’s law school, saying the public needs to believe that government can be trusted.

“If anything, recent headlines of scandal and corruption have fed the cynicism,” he said.

Those headlines center on the long-serving Assembly speaker, Manhattan Democrat Sheldon Silver, who was resigning from the position effective 11:59 p.m. Monday in the wake of charges accusing him of collecting nearly $4 million in payoffs and kickbacks.

Cuomo outlined several changes he said should take place, including full disclosure of all outside income for legislators; stopping the personal use of campaign funds; updating campaign finance laws to require more disclosure; and removing state pensions from lawmakers convicted of public corruption. He’s spoken about some of the reforms before.

He said he anticipates legislators digging in their heels about new ethics laws, claiming they would be an invasion into their private lives and that a majority of ethical lawmakers would be scrutinized because of a few who commit wrongs.

“Legislators will say that this is an intrusion into their private business and they will be right, but my answer is that their private business has intruded into state government first, and that public service is a privilege and an honor and it is a sacrifice that they must make,” Cuomo said.

The legislator expected to take over the speaker spot, Assemblyman Carl Heastie, has said he intends to pursue a series of ethics reforms.

Cuomo has long talked about dealing with corruption and created a commission to investigate it among lawmakers in 2013. A year later, Cuomo shuttered that commission in a deal with Silver and Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos. Cuomo also faces questions about whether his office tried to prevent the Moreland Commission from investigating groups linked to the governor.

Bill Lipton, director of the state Working Families Party, said, “If the governor is serious about fighting corruption in Albany he’ll insure that all five points of the plan he outlined today - including the number one recommendation of the Moreland Commission, public financing of elections - remain in the budget.”

The state’s fiscal year ends March 31.

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