Cuomo Strikes Ethics Deal Setting Up New York Budget to Pass

(Bloomberg) — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo struck an agreement on a budget that will require lawmakers to disclose more about their incomes as a result of scandals that have gripped the capital.

The deal reached Sunday with legislators in Albany clears a path for Cuomo to enact a spending plan before the April 1 start of the fiscal year for the fifth time in a row. Cuomo had said he wouldn’t sign a budget without rules aimed at curbing the abuse of power after former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested on federal corruption charges.

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“I said I would not sign a budget without real ethics reform, and this budget does just that,” Cuomo said in a e-mailed statement Sunday.

The outcome is a victory for Cuomo, a 57-year-old Democrat, who can point to it as a sign he’s combating dysfunction and cleaning up a sullied statehouse. Its passage will mark the longest stretch of on-time budgets in at least four decades, which has helped New York win its highest credit rating from Standard & Poor’s since 1972.

Cuomo said that the budget holds spending growth to less than 2 percent for a fifth straight year. The full details will be released Monday, his office said in the statement.

Still, the aspects of the accord announced Sunday failed to include some of Cuomo’s key proposals, including an increase in the minimum wage to $10.50 an hour from $8.75, which would be the highest among U.S. states. It also didn’t include an extension to the mayor’s control over New York City’s schools, as Cuomo had wanted. Cuomo said on March 28 that both items, along with others left out of the budget, would be dealt with before the legislative session ends in June.

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Education Fight

When Cuomo introduced the spending plan Jan. 21, his priority was overhauling the education system by making it easier to fire educators, boosting the role of student exams in teacher evaluations and increasing the number of charter schools, all of which rankled teachers unions. He said if lawmakers agreed, schools would get more than $700 million in extra funding.

That priority was overtaken by the need to address ethics scandals in Albany. The day after Cuomo’s budget proposal was released, Silver was arrested on federal charges that he made almost $4 million from kickback schemes over 15 years. Silver, a Democrat who had served as the Assembly leader for more than 20 years, said he’ll be exonerated.

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Ethics Rules

Cuomo rushed to move forward with new ethics regulations as Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara warned of more arrests to come.

On Feb. 2, Cuomo said he’d rather have a late budget than one without broad disclosure requirements for lawmakers concerning their outside jobs, a threat that could’ve led to a government shutdown.

As he pressed his proposals, teachers unions targeted him in television advertisements and in protests.

The attacks took a toll. A poll by Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, this month showed his job approval rating had fallen to 50 percent, the lowest since he took office in January 2011. It found that most of the damage was from voters who disapproved of his stance on education.

The governor won the ethics issue, with new rules in the budget that require lawmakers to disclose their clients and would strip pensions from public officials convicted of graft. The pension change needs approval by voters before it can take effect.

To contact the reporter on this story: Freeman Klopott in Albany at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at William Selway

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