State lacks funds for idea

There’s not much on paper yet regarding the latest talk of using public taxpayer dollars to finance political campaigns in New York state, but we think such a proposal would make little difference in leveling the political playing field.

We also think our state, struggling to pay for necessities like education, doesn’t have the money to burden taxpayers with millions to fund state elections.

According to a recent Associated Press story, such a proposal could cost $200 million. We agree with Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos when he said, “That’s money that would be much better spent on property tax relief or investing more money in rural upstate school districts and underperforming school districts around the state.”

Also, David Primo, political science professor of the University of Rochester said no conclusive study shows giving money to people to run for office attracts stronger candidates, increases voter turnout or makes races more competitive.

Cecilia Tkaczyk is driving a plan that would use taxpayer dollars to match campaign contributions and limit big donations. It looks like at this point, the public financing would be voluntary.

Tkaczyk’s campaign received a boost from $250,000 from Super PAC Friends of Democracy, which spent the money on an ad campaign independent of Tkaczyk.

One of the SuperPAC’s founding members is activist Jonathan Soros, a Manhattan hedge fund manager and son of billionaire donor to liberal causes George Soros.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said earlier this month he is interested in legislation to overhaul the state’s campaign finance laws.

Some are proposing a financing system for state election similar to one used in New York City. That system matches small donations with public taxpayer dollars if candidates must agree to strict spending limits.

A public funding program for presidential elections exists on the federal level. Qualified candidates can receive federal taxpayer dollars to pay for campaign expenses in both primary and general elections.

This conversation has been ongoing for more than a century. The first public financing legislation was proposed in 1907 for the presidential election, and, in that same year, President Theodore Roosevelt recommended public financing of federal elections and a ban on private contributions.

We don’t expect the debate to end soon. However, the state simply does not have the money to finance campaigns.