There’s a tremendous amount of agreement over what should be done to save specific pieces of the state’s public campaign finance system, but there’s also some disagreement legislative leaders admitted Wednesday as they exited Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s office.
Legislative leaders agreed they need to fix the system as early as this Friday, but just how big that fix will be remains to be seen.
A few weeks ago a federal appeals court limited the ability of publicly financed candidates to keep up with the spending of millionaires who finance their own campaigns.
This means gubernatorial candidates like Democrat Dan Malloy and Republican Michael Fedele, who are running against wealthy opponents, won’t receive anything more than $3 million for the November election. Before the court decision candidates running against wealthy opponents could have received up to $6 million in a gubernatorial race.
The question for lawmakers is what, if anything they can do for candidates like Malloy and Fedele, who were counting on those funds being there when they agreed to participate in the program.
“In terms of the grant amount we’ve been talking about that there isn’t any agreement on that now,” Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said. “We’re going to try and continue the discussion on that.”
He said options being considered are increasing the initial grant amount up from $3 million or allowing candidates to go back out and raise money.
Rell’s spokeswoman said the governor was adamant about not increasing the grant amounts for gubernatorial candidates and prefers leaving the more complicated fixes until next year.
Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney said the legislature should deal solely with the severability clause and other minor fixes.
“We can not be doing an overhaul. We need to make sure the system complies with the court order,“ Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said. “Things that are unconstitutional need to be fixed and that’s it.”
McKinney said he would not support increasing the grant amount and “spending more taxpayer dollars at this time.”
His party’s chairman seems to agree.
Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy warned against the Democratic majority’s proposed fixes to the public finance system alleging increased grant amounts will cost taxpayers more money.
“While the legislature is supposed to be looking for $50 Million in budget cuts and searching for other sources to fund government programs, the Democrats in the legislature seem to care more about electing their pals than fixing the real problems facing our state,” said Healy.
Speaker of the House Chris Donovan said he’s already asked the Office of Fiscal Analysis to look into how increasing grant amounts will impact the Citizens’ Election Fund.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero said the other option being discussed is allowing the candidate to go back out and raise more money. He said the contribution level could be increased from $100 per person to $250 per person.
Even though legislative leaders don’t agree on everything, Williams said they agreed on trying to preserve the underlying essence of the law and holding a special session Friday to address it.
“We don’t want to be seen as reacting to the primary,“ Donovan said.
And even though Republicans like Cafero don’t believe public money should be used to finance campaigns, he said it should be preserved at least through the 2010 election cycle.
“I’m also a realist,“ Cafero said. “I don’t believe in getting rid of the system mid-stream.“
Cafero, who is participating in the system, said if the program goes away during the election cycle it would be a disadvantage to the Republican caucus and all the candidates participating.