DFL Gov. Mark Dayton is threatening to veto a budget bill if it includes a repeal of the state’s political contribution and public subsidy program.
House Republicans passed the repeal as part of their state government finance bill. Negotiations between the House and Senate on a final bill are now underway.
During a news conference Monday, Dayton and several DFL legislators warned that the Republican plan would lift campaign spending limits and open the flood gates to unlimited special-interest contributions.
“It would be a terrible direction for Minnesota,” Dayton said. “We have a history of strong campaign finance protections, as well campaign and elections protections. There’s just out to gut every one of them for their own advantage. I salute the legislators who are here today for their strong opposition, and I will join them in that opposition.”
The state elections campaign fund provides public financing to candidates who agree to spending limits. It’s available to candidates running for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state auditor, and the state Legislature.
The money comes from a legislative appropriation as well as individual tax-return check offs.
The Minnesota voters who contribute to those campaigns are eligible for a refund of $50 for individuals and $100 for couples.
Sen. Jim Carlson, DFL-Eagan, said the current system gives influence to individual voters.
“With these changes that are being proposed, they’re taking away the weight of that vote that you have as an individual and putting it into the hands of someone with very deep pockets,” Carlson said.
But the Republican chair of the House state government finance committee defended the repeal.
“I don’t think that the taxpayers of Minnesota are expecting that their taxpayer dollars are going toward politicians’ campaigns,” said Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth.
Anderson said the repeal would save $2.7 million that could be better spent on other initiatives. She said the House bill redirected that money to nutrition and literacy programs.
Anderson also stressed that the state campaign disclosure laws would remain in place.
“Nothing in our bill changes how disclosure happens here in the state. I think that’s the key element. That’s what people want out of our campaigns is the disclosure piece."