Legislature’s budget package snubs Clean Election system

Only about $11 million of $65 million worth of spending bills passed last year and this year by the Maine Legislature would receive funding if a supplemental budget package forwarded Monday evening by the budget committee takes effect.

That means there are about $54 million worth of passed bills that will die at the end of the session, resulting in a lot of disappointed groups and constituencies. Among them are supporters of Maine’s public campaign financing system, who fear a lack of funding could short-change candidates who plan to run publicly financed campaigns this year.

Neither version of the latest spending priorities compromise includes a replenishment of $1.7 million that was stripped out of the Maine Clean Election Fund in 2015 to pay for other initiatives, according to the program’s supporters. That’s despite a referendum last year that revealed continued voter support for the program.

In November 2015, 55 percent of Maine voters supported a campaign finance reform plan that calls for raising allocations to the system from $4 million to $6 million in every two-year budget cycle. That increase is set to be funded by closing “low performing and unaccountable” corporate tax breaks.

“Now is not the time to weaken our clean election laws and allow wealthy special interests to have more sway in our government,” said Andrew Bossie, executive director of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections. “Maine voters have delivered a mandate this November and we implore lawmakers to listen: fully fund clean elections to ensure a government accountable to voters, not wealthy campaign donors — not one where the voice of the people does not matter and is ignored.”

Bossie’s group is planning a rally at the State House on Wednesday in an attempt to pressure lawmakers to make Maine’s public campaign financing system, which was implemented in 1996, a priority.

After the number of legislative candidates who used public financing dropped to 53 percent in 2014 — a decline from past legislative elections that saw much higher participation — a higher percentage of potential legislative candidates has filed this year to use public financing for primary and general elections.

 

 

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.