Cuomo won't 'sacrifice' ethics reforms in NY budget talks; Senate GOP offers counterproposal

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that government ethics reforms must stay in the state budget he is negotiating with legislative leaders.

Speaking to an audience in Rochester, the Democratic governor said he also wants to see the budget include his proposals to revise teacher evaluations, toughen tenure rules and authorize more charter schools.

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"It seems that every couple of weeks there is another story about another official in Albany who got caught in a scandal," Cuomo said, adding that ethics reform is something he is "not willing to sacrifice."

The ultimatum came as the Senate's Republican majority released a counterproposal that calls for more in tax relief and education spending than Cuomo's plan. The Senate plan did not go into details relating to Cuomo's ethics overhaul — or most of his education reforms — but senators say they intend to offer their own modifications to Cuomo's proposals.

Cuomo's ethics reforms include requiring lawmakers to detail their outside income and submit receipts for their daily food and lodging expenses.

Many lawmakers have objected to Cuomo's decision to embed his education and ethics reforms within the budget, which lawmakers hope to approve by April 1. The governor has threatened to not sign the budget if it doesn't include his proposals.

The counterproposal announced Wednesday by the Senate GOP calls for a property tax credit for an estimated 3.3 million homeowners. Cuomo's $142 billion budget proposal includes a more modest credit for 1.3 million households. Senate Republicans also want to enact a 2 percent property tax cap on New York City in exchange for income tax credits for city taxpayers.

Their plan also includes an additional $1.9 billion in school spending — compared to $1.1 billion in Cuomo's plan.

The proposal does not include an increase in the minimum wage sought by Cuomo and other Democrats, or the Dream Act, which would extend financial aid to students in the country illegally. It also eliminates Cuomo's proposed $1.5 billion upstate economic development competition and replaces it with additional spending on highways and bridges and a $700 statewide economic development fund.

"This fiscally responsible spending plan should serve as a blueprint for an enacted budget that invests in New York and helps our residents build a brighter future," Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said in a statement.

The final product will be hammered out during closed-door budget negotiations between Cuomo and top lawmakers, a process the governor jokingly likened to "some kind of cruel water torture."