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Gov. Cuomo Vows He Won't Sign Budget If Ethics Reforms Don't Pass

 Andrew Cuomo unveiled a package of ethics reform proposals at a lecture at NYU Law School on Monday.
Andrew Cuomo unveiled a package of ethics reform proposals at a lecture at NYU Law School on Monday.
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DNAinfo/Danielle Tcholakian

GREENWICH VILLAGE — Gov. Andrew Cuomo pitched a five-point ethics reform plan on Monday and threatened a government shutdown if he does not get his way.

"A governor’s maximum leverage vis-a-vis the legislature is in the budget process," Cuomo said in a speech at New York University Law School Monday. "In that exchange, the governor can effectively can say to the legislature, either pass my budget or shut down the government.

"I will not sign a budget that does not have an ethics plan as outlined in my proposal that addresses the current problems in the system."

The governor's emphasis on reform was inspired by the arrest of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was arrested on Jan. 22 on charges of accepting kickbacks from developers and law firms.

At the law school on Monday, Cuomo proposed a package of reforms intended to make the government more transparent. Officials would disclose all outside income in greater detail, recording the source and use of the money, and whether there is any connection between the source of the funds and the state government or the office that the lawmaker holds.

Though he admitted the most obvious solution to the ever-common criminal indictments against public servants with private sector jobs would be to remove that "conflict," Cuomo stopped just short of calling for a ban on outside income, and instead proposed "total disclosure."

"You've heard the phrase 'follow the money?'" he asked. "Well, we're creating a new expression: Explain the money."

He also proposed that lawmakers convicted of corruption be required to forfeit their taxpayer-funded pensions, that per diems be given either to reimburse specific travel expenses or as a lump sum, and that more stringent campaign finance laws be enacted to prevent campaign funds from going to personal use.

Asked if he had any inkling of potential wrongdoing by Silver, Cuomo said, "Absolutely — absolutely not."

"I'll tell you the truth," the governor said, "I was totally shocked on a number of levels. I was really, really shocked."

Asked if he agreed with Mayor Bill de Blasio that Silver is "a man of integrity," Cuomo said, "That's the mayor's opinion."

Silver will resign his seat as Assembly Speaker at 11:59 p.m. Monday, after 21 years. He will remain a member of the Assembly, however.