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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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State rep wants Wis. to return to publicly financing elections

Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Fort Atkinson, introduced a proposal Monday to re-establish the Wisconsin Election Campaign Fund’s budget for public financing of elections, according to a statement from Jorgensen’s office.

If enacted, the proposal would allow money collected last year to go to candidates running in elections for the state Senate and state Assembly, the statement said. It would also allow the WECF to continue operating in the future.

The WECF is a publicly financed segregated fund, with hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin taxpayers voluntarily contributing $1 through the “check-off” program on their tax returns.

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This past year, there was $1.1 million generated for the fund, the statement said.

Money raised was supposed to be distributed to politicians running for office this fall, but instead the program was cut and the money was redirected back into the WECF to be used for other projects, according to the statement.

“It was done as a part of the budget repair bill,” said Reid Magney, spokesperson for the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board. “The new budget reduced funding for those programs. If you’re going to reduce funding that much, just cut the program.”

Magney said there was a decline in the amount of people choosing to give money to the program in recent years. He speculated this was a possible reason why Gov. Scott Walker decided to cut it.

“Funding priorities were taken into consideration and the cut was made to help balance Wisconsin’s $3.6 billion spending deficit last year,” Cullen Werwie, a spokesperson for Gov. Walker, said. “The cut was made as a part of spending reductions across the board.”

Jorgensen said the program helps those who want to run for political office but may not have the financial means. He worries those would-be politicians would not be able to run for public office without the fund.

“[Public financing of elections] has been a tool that many have used. At the end of the day, it is a program that has been very important to the people of Wisconsin,” he said.

WEFC’s program of public funding for elections had been supporting qualifying politicians since 1978 up until it was removed in the spring.

“Under this plan, candidates for state offices who agree to limit their campaign expenditures and contributions, fulfill all reporting requirements, win the primary with at least 6 percent of the vote and have an opponent would be eligible for public financing dollars. State Senate candidates could receive $15,525, and State Assembly candidates could receive $7,763,” Jorgensen’s statement said.

Jorgensen said the fund is not party preferential and both Democrats and Republicans have used it to support successful campaigns in the past. He said he hopes there will be bipartisan support for his proposal.

“During the last political campaign, Republicans made a pitch that they wouldn’t raid segregated funds any more. This is a segregated fund,” Jorgensen said.

Jorgensen said he hopes to take a vote on it by the end of the session. He said constituents should call their congressional representatives and let them know if they want them to support his proposal.

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