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Cuomo says he’ll take the blame for bail reform, but won’t sign budget without it

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday had a message for lawmakers concerned with whether criminal justice law changes like ending cash bail should be in the budget: He’d take the blame.

“It will be true. Blame me. The governor said he would not do a budget without criminal justice reform,” Cuomo said. “If we didn’t have a budget, my school districts wouldn’t get money. The governor insisted on putting it in the budget.”

Holding up his right arm at a press conference, Cuomo added, “Blame me. Guilty.”

State lawmakers are yet to come to an agreement on criminal justice law changes such as cashless bail for some charges, ensuring access to a speedy trial and curbing the use of solitary confinement. Local prosecutors and police departments have raised concerns with the details of the legislation, though lawmakers last week were confident the legislation can be approved before the budget is negotiated.

Still, criminal justice advocates who have sought changes this year were hopeful that with a Democratic majority in the state Senate, the measures stood a great chance of passing.

Cuomo, however, said there are still pressures on legislators.

“The concerns don’t go away just because you elected Democrats,” Cuomo said. “The district attorneys still call up and say I have a problem. The sheriffs still call up and say I have a problem.”

Cuomo offered to personally speak with smaller groups of lawmakers, which he has done before on other measures, most notably during the legalization of same-sex marriage.

“I’ll take the blame,” he said. “See, when it’s in the budget it allows everyone to say, it wasn’t me, it’s the governor. Let’s be honest: That’s what the budget allows you to do.”

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