From the Morning Memo:

Senate Democrats are criticizing Gov. Andrew Cuomo tying new outside income disclosure requirements and per diem reforms to spending in the state budget, questioning whether the approach is constitutional, according to a letter obtained by Capital Tonight.

The push back from nearly all sides in the Legislature, including lawmakers in his own party as well as Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, comes as lawmakers have grown bolder during the start of Cuomo’s second term in publicly challenging a governor known for his hardball tactics.

The letter, addressed Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, the mainline conference provides an outline for their budget priorities in the coming fiscal year.

The letter was also sent to Cuomo’s office, as well as Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. It was signed by Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Sen. Liz Krueger, the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee.

Senate Democrats call for more education aid — at least $2 billion — while also backing an indexed minimum wage increase coupled with local control.

But Democrats write they won’t directly address Cuomo’s ethics proposals, considering that the governor is stretching his budgetary powers by yoking policy to spending.

“While we agree on many of the policy positions themselves, it is important to ensure that the constitutional limits on the Executive’s powers are not exceeded,” the letter states. “Accordingly, in order to preserve the legislature’s rights in this regard, this letter will not address the policy proposals that may not properly belong in the budget process. On these issues, our Conference has staked out clear positions that, in the case of ethics reform for example, are even stronger than what is included in the Executive’s budget proposals and we look forward to advancing these issues at the appropriate time.”

And in some of the more pointed language used to criticize Cuomo’s budgetary strategy, Senate Democrats write there are separation of powers concerns at stake with the governor’s tactics.

“Our primary responsibility as legislators is to represent our constituents and preserve the constitutional powers vested in the legislative branch of government,” the letter states. “Failure to ensure reasonable limitation on Executive authority would signal an irreversible abrogation of our constitutionally guaranteed legislative responsibility.”

Introduced last month, Cuomo’s 30-day amendments to his $142 billion budget proposal sought to jam state lawmakers by linking the ethics proposals to spending. Cuomo’s budget also ties the DREAM Act, the education tax credit and spending for the Tuition Assistance Program, into one bundle.

Cuomo is hinging his ethics plan on the Silver v. Pataki court ruling, which gave the governor broader power over the state budget.

The move was an effort to have lawmakers either vote the measures up or down, considering they cannot alter what has been introduced in appropriations bills.

However, lawmakers in both chambers have chafed at the play, and so far have refused to introduce the budget amendments, a maneuver that allows them to retain some leverage over the governor during the budget talks.

Skelos said last week a legal challenge to Cuomo’s ethics effort is unnecessary and Cuomo himself doubts one will be made as well.

Speaking with reporters after a closed-door leaders meeting, lawmakers said they haven’t raised the issue of the 30-day amendments with the governor, adding that it wasn’t even discussed.

Still, Senate IDC Leader Jeff Klein indicated negotiations were continuing on ethics reform, even with the amendments not being introduced.

img-309163227-0001 by Nick Reisman