A state lawmaker is calling on Republicans to reinstate a public financing option for candidates running for the state Legislature. The Wisconsin Election Campaign Fund, and the income tax check-off that paid for it, were eliminated in the last state budget.
Even though it was only used by 11 lawmakers in recent elections, Jay Heck with Common Cause in Wisconsin says its existence was important. Heck says every dollar of public financing a candidate has access to means one less dollar of special interest funding they have to accept.
State Representative Andy Jorgensen (D-Fort Atkinson) is introducing a bill that would bring back the check-off, and also restore the $1.1 million taken out of the fund in the state budget. Jorgensen says that action was nothing more than a raid on money lawmakers had no right to spend and it should be used for its original purpose.
Money from the Wisconsin Election Campaign Fund was diverted to help fund implementation of the state’s new Voter ID requirement, which takes effect next year.
Advocates of restoring the fund admit the previous public financing system had flaws and was rarely used. However, Heck says it’s a good start to building a new version, which could be similar to more popular systems in place in other states.