The head of the state’s clean elections system says there is enough money in the Citizens’ Election Fund to increase the amount gubernatorial candidates receive for the general election, but the statement may not be enough to win Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s support.
Beth Rotman, executive director of the Citizens’ Election Program, emailed lawmakers Thursday to let them know that there is enough money to increase the general election grant from $3 million to $6 million for gubernatorial candidates and $1 million for the five constitutional officers. The Office of Fiscal Analysis did their own calculations and reached the same conclusion.
But Rell, who championed the law and is not seeking reelection this year, said she objects to increasing the public grants to candidates. A sentiment she expressed in a closed door meeting with legislative leaders Wednesday.
In a letter to legislative leaders Thursday Rell said she would veto a bill that included any increased grant amounts for candidates.
Leaders in the Democrat-controlled House and Senate were making calls Thursday afternoon to their caucuses trying to gauge how much support there is for the change. The Senate needs 24 votes and the House needs 101 votes to override a veto.
It’s unclear if an override is possible, but sources say the legislation is being drafted two ways. One which includes an increase in grants to gubernatorial and constitutional candidates, and one which would allow them to go back out and raise more money.
Republican lawmakers and Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy expressed their opposition to the move Wednesday.
“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.
He said it will cost the state more money to increase the grant amounts.
Rotman said increasing the grant amounts will not increase the amount of funds the state needs to maintain the program.
“We began the 2010 election cycle with approximately $40 million in the CEF, and the resources available in the CEF would remain sufficient,“ Rotman said.
About $10.3 million has been paid out of the fund to candidates and of that about $8 million has been used by primary candidates.
Rep. James Spallone, co-chairman of the General Administration and Elections Committee, said it’s only fair to increase the grants for gubernatorial candidates.
He said Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele and Dan Malloy opted into the program knowing they could receive up to $6 million for the general election campaign if they were facing a high spending opponent.
“They have upheld their end of the bargain, raising qualifying contributions, agreeing not to accept political action committee contributions and agreeing to the spending cap,” Spallone said. “For the state to fail to repair the supplemental grant provisions now would be fundamentally unfair, and a failure to hold up our end of the bargain.”
He said only the grants for the gubernatorial candidates should be increased and the loss of supplemental grants for other candidates can wait until next year.