Budget Writers Approve $750,000 in Tax Dollars for Campaign Finance Reform

April 29, 1999

Madison - The Legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee has approved a recommendation by the governor to use $750,000 in public funds to help pay for campaign finance reform.

On a 12-4 vote, the committee voted April 27 to use the money to pay for any increased costs associated with campaign finance reforms that it may approve later this session.

The committee’s vote adds the funding for future campaign finance reforms to the committee’s version of the proposed 1999-2001 state budget, which will be considered by the full Legislature in June.

The proposal drew sharp comments from critics, including Republican Reps. John Gard of Peshtigo, the committee’s co-chair, and Sheryl Albers of Loganville. They condemned using general tax dollars to help candidates who taxpayers may not support.

Democratic Sen. Robert Jauch of Poplar and other supporters on the committee hailed the proposal as a way to begin meaningful campaign finance reform by helping candidates rely less on special interest contributions.

Here are some of their comments from the debate:

  • "I really view it as stepping on free speech to redirect tax dollars" --Rep. Sheryl Albers, R-Loganville.
  • "We should not just take GPR (general purpose revenue) and allocate it to candidates when people might not support those candidates" --Albers.
  • "I just don’t think the first step should be to take money from the working families in this state" --Rep. John Gard, R-Peshtigo.
  • The proposal goes "for the wallet" of taxpayers to fund "30-second ads to rip people apart," --Gard.
  • "He (the governor) has introduced the idea of providing public dollars instead of making campaign finance an auction," --Sen. Robert Jauch, D-Poplar.
  • "The public wants Wisconsin to reduce access by special interest high rollers," --Jauch.
  • "We have never had this much serious debate about campaign finance reform this early in a two-year cycle," --Sen. Mary Panzer, R-West Bend.
  • "I think most people in this state still believe in citizen government and they should have a chance to practice it. I would hope that we open our eyes and don’t be cynical about the use of public money," --Panzer.
  • "It begins to invite the public back into the process," --Sen. Brian Burke, D-Milwaukee.