Running as a clean elections candidate wouldn’t be an option for hopefuls in next year’s gubernatorial contest under a budget compromise crafted last week by Republican and Democratic legislators. But while public campaign financing would be off the table in the race for the Blaine House, it would still be an option for legislative candidates, who would be able to qualify for 20 percent more funding than they received during last year’s elections. Under the budget provision, the clean elections program would receive $2.8 million from the state’s general fund over the next two years. That’s $2.8 million more than the fund would have received under Gov. Paul LePage’s original budget proposal, which would have eliminated funding for the program, but $1.2 million less than the program normally receives every two years. LePage also proposed eliminating public campaign financing two years ago in his first budget proposal before taking that proposal off the table.
This year’s budget is on its way to the full Legislature after lawmakers on the Appropriations Committee approved their final package late Friday night. The budget could be changed further on the House and Senate floors before it’s sent to LePage, who has said he would veto it because it increases sales and meals-and-lodging taxes.
While $2.8 million for the program is better than LePage’s alternative, it’s less than what’s needed to fully fund the clean elections system, said Andrew Bossie, executive director of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, an advocacy group for the state’s public campaign financing system.
“This is a slight improvement for legislative candidates only, but a far cry from what the system was and should be,” he said. “Even with these slight improvements, it doesn’t improve the system enough to make it viable for all candidates.”
Adrienne Bennett, a spokeswoman for LePage, said in February the governor proposed eliminating clean elections funding because he “had to prioritize” in putting together his budget package.