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Post date: January 31 2007

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's Statement On Governor Spitzer's Executive Budget

Governor Spitzer and I were elected with a broad mandate to reform Albany. We promised to make government more open and accountable, and bring integrity and sound management to vital programs. In ways large and small, Governor Spitzer’s first executive budget puts these broad themes and values into concrete programs. I encourage the legislature to embrace these programs and demonstrate their commitment to reform and accountability.

In particular, I am pleased with those provisions of special importance to my job as Attorney General.

Let me first thank Governor Spitzer for funding “Project Sunlight,” a proposal I advanced to bring new transparency to state government. Through Project Sunlight, my office’s Public Integrity Bureau will publish state data on legislative activity, campaign finance, lobbying, state contracts, and corporations onto a single website. The web site will be searchable, easy-to-use, and allow for cross-referencing of the data. Our current disclosure system is balkanized and unconnected. The state now provides scattered “dots” of information. We will connect those dots to show the full picture. In fact, not only will we bring together this disparate information – we will improve it. In so doing we will increase trust and accountability, and empower citizen activists, journalists, bloggers, and public interest groups to monitor government. This year is the 30th anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act. It is fitting to mark it by launching this project.

Second, Governor Spitzer has proposed powerful tools to help the Attorney General’s Office combat Medicaid fraud. His budget includes a False Claims Act to empower whistle-blowers who discover theft of state dollars to sue the perpetrators on behalf of the State. They would be rewarded with a part of any recovery. If enacted, New York would join the federal government and 16 states that have used similar acts to recover billions of stolen dollars for their taxpayers. And the Governor’s leadership couldn’t come at a better time, because New York’s Medicaid program is now facing millions of dollars of federal penalties specifically because we don’t have a False Claims Act.

Additionally, the budget includes a ‘Martin Act’ for Health Care Fraud. It grants the Attorney General the same broad powers to investigate health care fraud that currently exist to investigate business and securities fraud. As Attorney General, Spitzer’s effective use of the state’s Martin Act to clean up Wall Street and protect investors was one of his greatest legacies. I want the same tools to expand on this legacy and protect the taxpayers’ investment in Medicaid and other health care programs.

Finally, Governor Spitzer’s budget wisely invests over $500,000 for Medicaid fraud prosecutors — an investment that the federal government will match 3 to 1, resulting in $2.1 million for 23 additional prosecutors.

For 12 years Albany has been unwilling to tackle big problems. The result has been an increase in cynicism and a loss of faith that government institutions can to do what is right. Governor Spitzer’s budget includes antidotes to the disease of dysfunction, and I look forward to working with him and legislative leaders towards enactment.