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While Cuomo touts it, GOP leader Skelos says 'no' to publicly financed campaigns

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville) said he

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville) said he would block the politically split Senate from considering Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's proposal to use taxpayer money to fund campaigns. (March 20, 2013) (Credit: Office of the Governor)

As Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo introduced a proposal Tuesday to use public money to fund political campaigns, State Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) called it dead on arrival.

Cuomo's plan would establish public financing of campaigns, similar to a system used for New York City elections. His sweeping proposal also calls for lowering campaign-contribution limits, closing loopholes that allow corporations to skirt contribution caps, expanding early voting and creating new positions at the state Board of Elections to enforce campaign laws.

Cuomo, a Democrat, said the changes are needed in the wake of indictments and convictions of state legislators over the last 10 weeks. Cuomo said that although only a handful of the legislature's 212 members have been swept up in the scandals, "the perception" of corruption in state politics is "the problem."


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But Skelos said he would block the politically split Senate from considering a key part of the plan -- public financing of campaigns.

"No," Skelos said Tuesday when asked if he could foresee any way the Senate would take up the issue.

"We're not going to do taxpayer funding of elections. . . . I'd rather take that money and put it into education, infrastructure, child care."

In April, Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) and other officials were indicted in an alleged bribery scheme that involved rigging a spot in the New York City mayoral primary for Smith.

Several other lawmakers have been charged in separate cases, and two lawmakers disclosed that they were secretly taping their colleagues on behalf of prosecutors.

"No doubt that over the past few months there have been scandals about the state legislature," Cuomo said. "Any one of them individually can be dismissed. But in totality, they are very powerful."

Activists have said public financing would reduce the influence of money in politics.

Under a coalition arrangement, Senate co-leaders Skelos and Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) must both agree to bring a bill to the floor for a vote.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), a supporter of publicly financed campaigns, called Skelos' comments "unfortunate."

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