Say what you will about Gov. David Paterson’s political missteps, the man has some good ideas for government reform. And the Legislature needs to stop proffering straw man arguments opposing them.
In his Jan. 6 State of the State speech, Paterson laid out an ambitious plan of long overdue regulations to whip Albany back into shape. Some highlights:
• Drastic cutbacks on allowable campaign contributions, including an outright ban on corporate donations;
• A requirement that legislators disclose outside income;
• Public financing for campaigns, much like the city’s arrangement;
• Term limits for all state offices (six, two-year terms for Senators and Assembly members; and two, four-year terms for other statewide officials)—something that’s sure to be an uphill battle;
• An independent state government ethics commission to replace the broken Commission on Public Integrity, which effectively lets legislators police themselves.
While these reforms sound like a good government group’s dream, some legislators are suggesting that the governor is merely trying to boost low poll numbers. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver pointed out that his house has previously passed campaign finance reform, but Paterson opposed it. “If he had a change of mind, I welcome him,” Silver added. “I’m still sponsoring a public campaign finance bill.”
At press time, the Legislature was reportedly working on a reform package as well. We’re happy to consider what lawmakers put forward, as long as it is as comprehensive as Paterson’s plan. But the danger here is that our representatives—Paterson included—will get mired in politicking and use that as an excuse not to act.
Quite frankly, we don’t care why anyone supports reform, so long as the proposals being supported have teeth and will make headway in changing the way Albany does business. Yes, lawmakers need to focus on job creation and balancing the budget, but these tasks become exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, when special interest groups control the debate. That can change with proper campaign finance reform.
Now is the time for everyone in Albany to stop making excuses and start making changes—or voters will do it for them.
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