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With One Week To Go in Session , Cuomo Campaigns Across State for Agenda

It’s getting down to the wire for major pieces of legislation as the end of session approaches in Albany, and Governor Cuomo has yet to strike a deal with the legislature on a number of major issues, including a Women’s Equality Act that has an abortion rights provision, and a reform agenda that includes public financing of political campaigns. Cuomo also wants to set up tax free zones at college campuses and win approval to site three new gambling casinos upstate.  

The legislature is meeting in Albany, but the governor has been traveling across the state, trying to win support for his proposals.

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In Buffalo, he pushed for his reform plan, which would also empower District Attorneys to prosecute government corruption.  But he conceded that he may need to make compromises to get his measures passed.

“I understand you never get everything you want in life,” Cuomo said. “If it’s appropriate to compromise, we will.”  

Cuomo faces strong opposition from Republicans in the State Senate, who are against the public campaign financing provision in the bill, saying it’s a poor use of public monies.

The GOP Senators are also opposed to a provision in the women’s agenda, which would codify into New York State law the abortion rights protections spelled out in the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision.

But the governor seems less willing to give ground on that issue, citing the support of hundreds of women’s groups.

“They are basically running the show,” Cuomo said.   “They’re making the decisions on what they’ll accept and what they won’t accept.”

Bill Samuels heads the reform group New Roosevelt. Samuels is a former supporter of Cuomo and now a frequent critic. He says the governor is doing “too little, too late” to push his agenda. The public campaign finance bill was not released until June 10th.

“He had to put it out in February and campaign and sell it across the state,” Samuels said. “This is a complex issue.”

Samuels says if the governor wants to get the measures approved by the end of the session, he needs to be more confrontational with the Senate GOP, and it’s leader Senator Dean Skelos, as well as the four Independent Democrats who co lead the Senate with the Republicans.

“And say ‘let this bill be voted on, and if it’s not voted on in 2014, I’m going to campaign across this state’,” said Samuels, who says Cuomo should tell the GOP that he’ll put up Democratic candidates against them in next year’s elections.

“I dare him to do it,” Samuels said.

Cuomo says he is pushing hard for his agenda.  The governor was asked at a stop in Syracuse why he was not at the Capitol negotiating with legislative leaders. He says his strategy is to let the people of the state be the leaders.

“I explain to the people of the state what I’m trying to get done,” said Cuomo, who says he then asks the people to persuade their Assemblymembers and Senators.

“And that has worked very well for me,” Cuomo said.

Advocates aren’t ready to give up either. Susan Lerner, with Common Cause, says the fight for public campaign financing is still going strong.

“This is the final push of the campaign,” said Lerner. “And we mean it when we say don’t go home without passing this.”

It may seem late in the legislative session to begin rallying public support,  and to still try to convince legislative opponents, but a lot can happen in just a few days at the Capitol. There’s even some talk of extending the session for another week, beyond the scheduled June 20th end date.