The debate over policy being included in the state budget is a “red herring,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a lengthy statement on the budget talks released Thursday afternoon.

“The truth is that every budget boils down to two essential issues: How much money are we spending and how are we spending it?” Cuomo said. “There is no financial judgment that can be made without a corresponding policy judgment. Indeed many of the Legislature’s proposals in their one house budgets have related policy proposals.”

Cuomo has linked policy to spending in previous budget proposals.

But his $142 billion spending plan was seen as an even greater amount of policy linkage to appropriations this year, especially on education issues, where a $1.1 billion increase in aid is tied to reform proposals.

Meanwhile, Cuomo sought to yoke ethics measures dealing disclosure and campaign finance laws to appropriations in his 30-day budget amendments, that lawmakers declined to introduce.

Governors have broader powers over the budget process in Albany and Cuomo sought to use that leverage to achieve some policy victories.

In the statement, Cuomo reiterated his top priorities in the budget remain education and ethics reform.

Cuomo continues to insist that he won’t agree to a budget that does not include “real ethics reform” or allow a “dramatic increase in education aid” without reform measures.

Cuomo lays out those reform measures in education as being ones that deal with “accountability, performance and standards.”

On ethics, Cuomo says ethics must be considered in the budget, adding that client disclosure issues have plagued Albany for more than a generation.

“These two issues remain my highest priorities in this budget,” Cuomo says of ethics and education. “They are transformative changes.”

Currently, Assembly Democrats are meeting behind closed doors discussing education measures in the budget.

A previously proposed education commission is no longer part of the budget talks, lawmakers confirmed. Now, lawmakers are discussing having the Board of Regents potentially consider reform recommendations later this year.

Here is Cuomo’s full statement:

Cuomo Statement by Nick Reisman