Monday, May 24, 2010

On Cuomo's Reform Agenda

Accompanying the long-awaited announcement of his candidacy for Governor, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo released a 224-page “New NY Agenda” that outlines the issue areas on which he will focus during the campaign and – he hopes – in office.

The chapter on reforming state government covers many of the issues the Brennan Center and its allies have been pushing for years. The agenda includes independent ethics oversight, a pay to play ban, disclosure of lawmakers’ outside income, an independent redistricting commission, reforming the member item grant process, and an overhaul of campaign finance laws that includes public financing, a reduction in contribution limits, limits on soft money (including narrowing the so-called “housekeeping accounts” loophole), and increased enforcement.

Cuomo apparently intends to tour the state asking other candidates to sign on to this agenda, but this effort has already met with some resistance. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who would be required under Cuomo’s plan to disclose information about his clients that he has previously kept secret, said he would not be signing on, asserting that pledges “never really mean much.”

In this sense, Silver may be right: pledges only mean something if they are followed by action. The true measure of Cuomo's commitment to reform will be the work he does to make his ambitious plans come to fruition if he is elected.

But this agenda is a good first step, and we hope that other candidates similarly commit themselves to cleaning up state government. As Brennan Center Democracy Program Director Susan Liss reminded us in an excellent Daily News editorial this weekend, lawmakers who don’t take steps to reform our broken state government may finally face the populist wrath from which they have so far been sheltered.

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