Gov. Andrew Cuomo: Give New Yorkers an Equal Voice
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) provided his State of the State address today, saying that passing a Fair Elections-style campaign funding system should be a top priority this year.
It's time we make sure that all New Yorkers have an equal voice in our political process. Therefore, it is imperative that we implement real campaign finance reform and provide citizens with a voice in the very foundation of democracy — the ballot box.
New York currently ranks 48th in voter turnout in the nation. Moreover, according to the Campaign Finance Institute, a smaller percentage of the population gives to candidates for election to state office in New York than in any other state.
We must reconnect the people to the political process and their government.
First, we must achieve fundamental campaign finance reform by implementing a system of public funding of elections. New York City's public financing system provides a good model for statewide reform. The system has helped to increase the number of overall contributors — and especially the number of small donors — in city elections. To make sure we are protecting taxpayers, we will enact strict limits on total public funding per election, and we will phase the system in gradually.
Second, we must lower contribution limits. For most offices, New York State's contribution "limits" are substantially higher than those of any other state that imposes limits. Further, existing contribution limits for corporations are riddled with loopholes. In short, the state's campaign finance laws fail to prevent the dominance of wealthy contributors and special interests.
Third, we must enact pay-to-play rules to further restore the public trust. Companies and individuals who do business with the state should have no undue influence over elected officials. Accordingly, we must enact low contribution limits for public contractors and lobbyists.
Fourth, we must improve the enforcement of our state's campaign finance laws by creating a new enforcement unit in the State Board of Elections with the independence and authority to investigate alleged violations.
These and other reforms to our campaign finance laws are necessary to empower New Yorkers by giving them an equal voice in our elections. We must enact campaign finance reform this year.