In response to recent events, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Suozzi unveiled a six-point plan that aims to clean up state government.
Suozzi's proposal would require legislative hearings for any expenditure over $10 million that's a last-minute addition to the state budget process. He singled out the inclusion of $600 million for the Buffalo Bills' new stadium which was announced four days before the budget deadline and the $350 million fund for Long Island as examples of appropriations that should have been scrutinized.
"This is what's broken in our system," he said. "It's why we have the highest taxes in the United States of America. It's why we have all these problems."
The ethics reform plan aims to lower the state's high campaign contribution limits. For this year, the contribution limits for statewide offices are $22,600 for the Democratic primary and $47,100 for the general election.
Suozzi, a Long Island congressman, wants to adopt the federal contribution limits — $2,900 for the primary and $2,900 for general elections — and ban donations from corporations. Under existing state law, candidates may accept corporate donations.
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Under the proposal, Suozzi would also require quarterly campaign finance disclosures. While there are filing requirements ahead of primary and general elections, candidates are only mandated to file disclosures in January and July. A quarterly disclosure requirement would be consistent with what's required for federal candidates.
Suozzi is seeking to dismantle the Joint Commission on Public Ethics and establish an independent ethics panel. He is also proposing a ban on the use of state aircraft for non-official events, a swipe at Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul.
After a Times Union report found that Hochul used state aircraft for transportation to political events, her campaign paid nearly $31,000 to cover those expenses. Suozzi has been critical of Hochul for using state aircraft for travel to campaign events.
Suozzi is eyeing a ban on the use of statewide elected officials' names, photos and likenesses in taxpayer-funded mass communications 90 days before an election. This is in response to a New York Power Authority radio ad that mentions Hochul's name.
Hochul, Suozzi said, has "fostered a culture of corruption in New York."
Suozzi rolled out his plan as he faces a House Ethics Committee investigation into his failure to report stock transactions. A spokesman for the congressman recently said that Suozzi's investments "are managed through independent advisors with full discretion over all transactions." He added, "The congressman does not control or direct these transactions."
There is a three-way primary for the Democratic nomination — New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams is also in the race. Polls have shown that Hochul has a large lead over her primary challengers.
Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.