Bid to halt financing for state elections gains momentum

03/26/08 Mitch E. Perry
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A bid to end public financing of elections for high offices in Florida gained momentum Tuesday when the House Policy and Budget Council vote along party lines to eliminate public financing for governor and other cabinet offices.

The legislation comes in the form of a proposed constitutional amendment passed in 1998 that would repeal the provision by guaranteeing a public match for qualified candidates.

The bill is being sponsored in the House by Republican Alan Hays.

To qualify for a public match, candidates must raise $100,000 on their own and agree to spending limits; gubernatorial candidates must raise $150,000.

Ben Wilcox is with the good government group, Common Cause, based in Tallahassee. He says it would be a mistake for the democratic process to eliminate public financing.

But Rep. Hays, who represents parts of Lake, Seminole and Volusia counties in the Legislature, disagrees. Hays says the timing of his bill – which comes during an extremely tight fiscally budgeted year, is purely coincidental.

One factor in why the 2006 election cost the state $11-million in public campaign funding is that the year before, the spending limits for the governor and lieutenant governor increased from $5 million to $20.5 million, and from $2 million to $10.5 million for other offices.

Wilcox says that dramatic escalation in spending limits is what needs reform, not the entire concept.

The bill now must go through the Rules Committee and then on to the calendar of the House. A similar bill is being introduced in the Senate.

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