Since last night’s release of the Moreland Commission report, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has played his cards relatively close to the vest when it comes to creation of a public campaign finance system.

Keep in mind that Cuomo has been expressing support for using taxpayer dollars to fund campaigns for years now – at least since he was running for governor in 2010 – but has not yet expended significant political capital to actually achieve that goal the way he did with similarly controversial issues like same-sex marriage (a supposed non-starter with the Senate Republicans) and Tier 6 (particularly unpopular with Democrats in both houses).

Given Cuomo’s supposed enthusiasm for a publicly funded system, you might think he would have embraced the commission’s report. But instead, he issued the following relatively innocuous statement following the report’s release last night:

“I want to thank the Commission members and staff for their dedication and public service, and look forward to reviewing the Commission’s findings in detail and continuing to work with the Legislature to enact systemic reform.”

And then this morning, (as Nick reports below), Cuomo suggested that the dissent on public campaign financing might be too much to overcome, vis-a-vis the Senate Republicans, and should not hold up a deal on areas of reform on which both houses of the Legislature and the governor can agree.

This sounds a lot like Cuomo’s explanation during the last legislative session on why he wasn’t able to land a deal on all 10 points of his Women’s Equality Agenda – including the abortion rights plank, which the Senate Republicans staunchly refused to allow onto the floor for a vote.

So far, campaign finance reform advocates are trying to remain calm and optimistic. It’s very early in the game, after all, and the 2014 session hasn’t even officially started yet.

But several advocates I spoke with today said the true test of whether Cuomo is serious about creating a public campaign finance system is if he puts funding for said system in his 2014-15 executive budget proposal (assuming, that is, no deal is reached prior to the start of the 2014 session, which, given the Senate GOP’s opposition to the idea, seems highly unlikely at this point).

Two sources close to the campaign finance debate said Cuomo has suggested to advocates that it would somehow be illegal for him to include revenue for a taxpayer-funded system in the budget. But state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office disagrees.

“Article VII of the New York State Constitution grants the Governor broad authority to include substantive legislation in his proposed executive budget,” Schneiderman spokesman Matt Mittenthal said. “The governor’s authority was challenged by the Legislature in Pataki v. Assembly, and the challenge was rejected by the Court of Appeals.”

Unshackle Upstate recently argued in an anti-public campaign finance system white paper that using public funds for a political purpose would be unconstitutional. But advocates noted that the New York City system has existed for decades, and hasn’t never been challenged on constitutional grounds.

UPDATE: Mittenthal sent the following statement on the constitutionality question:

“No law prevents the legislature from giving public money to private individuals when doing so promotes a clear public purpose. There is no doubt that a small donor matching program – as part of a public financing law – would do just that.”

A number of funding mechanisms for a publicly financed system have been floated, including everything from using cash captured by closing corporate loopholes (a lefty favorite) to casino licensing fees (an idea put forth by Democratic activist/gadfly Bill Samuels and promptly shot down by Cuomo).

I emailed Cuomo’s press office to ask whether the governor might put money for a public campaign finance system in the budget, but have yet to receive a response.