Public funding option for elections may be coming

Bill making its way through state legislature this session

Published  4:17 PM HST Mar 30, 2013
HONOLULU -

A measure to create a full public funding option for election campaigns is making its way through the state Legislature this session.

It's supported by a number of organizations who want to see a more even playing field among candidates. But the biggest obstacle for House Bill 1481 is funding.
The measure is aimed at modernizing what's considered an outdated and unpopular program that provides funding for candidates -- giving taxpayers more say in the game.

“The voting public gets a chance to interact with candidates who aren’t spending 30 to 70 percent of their time raising money. They’re really spending that time with constituents solving problems,” said Kory Payne, executive director of Voter Owned Hawaii.

As the bill states, the amount a candidate receives is decided through a formula based on how much the winning candidate spent in the year prior. For House candidates right now, it’s about $34,000. Candidates must first collect 250 donations of at least $5 from constituents in their district. Donations of more than $250 are not allowed.

“We really do end up paying for elections by not paying for them in the form of bad policies,” said Payne.

Sen. Sam Slom cast the sole dissenting vote against House Bill 1481.
“I don’t think it’s right. You don’t get better politicians by paying more money and you don’t get better government and you don’t necessarily get more of a balance between the two parties,” said Slom.

It's estimated it would cost $1.25 million a year to fund two candidates per district in the state House. Slom said although it's time for campaign reform, it's not a good time to ask the public to pony up for politicians.

“Right now the economy is suffering, taxpayers are struggling. We’ve got to do something for education, for health care, for transportation and now we’re asking the taxpayers to pay for politicians?” said Slom.

Supporters hope strong support on the House side will help push the bill through and have the public take back control of our laws.

The bill passed the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Friday and now heads to conference in two weeks.

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