For Immediate Release: March 25, 2019
“FAIR ELECTIONS” COST A DROP IN THE BUDGET BUCKET
AND WOULD PAY FOR ITSELF
Statement from the Fair Elections for New York campaign on the New York State budget negotiations:
In recent days, exaggerated cost estimates for a system of public financing of elections have been floated from some corners as attempts to undermine the policy, stall reform and maintain the status quo.
It’s a drop in the budget bucket. According to the Campaign Finance Institute, the highest possible cost for publicly financing New York State elections would be $60 million annually. This includes $20 million in increased administrative costs to run the program. Public financing would be less than ½ of 1/1,000th of a percent of New York’s proposed $175B state budget. Put another way, it is about $3 a year per New Yorker, or a cup of coffee to ensure greater integrity of New York State government. (For anyone who really wants to dig in.)
It would pay for itself (easily). The reality is public financing could very well save taxpayers enormous amounts of money by curbing budget giveaways to wealthy donors. In 2013, five otherwise ineligible luxury properties on Billionaire’s Row in Manhattan received 421-a tax benefits costing New York City tens of millions of dollars in foregone revenue. The owners of those buildings gave hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions to state elected officials, including $100K days before the bill was signed. As the 2013 Moreland Commission found “In many years the elimination of just one wasteful tax expenditure or one unnecessary spending program could cover the full cost of the program.”
And as Tom DiNapoli said, “We need to open up the election process to more people in New York, and a new campaign financing system would be a relatively low cost tool with a big benefit. It allows candidates from all income levels and elected officials to spend less time fundraising and removes the perception of pay-to-play politics. It would strengthen the voices of New Yorkers who have been left out by the political process.”
The Governor and Legislature should pass a public financing of elections program in the budget. In addition to paying for itself, it’s an investment, the returns of which will come in the form of affordable housing, criminal justice reform, improved transit, affordable healthcare, environmental protection and every single aspect of a decent society that has been blocked by big money. #NoMoreExcuses.
Fair Elections legislation is one of the top issues being debated as the Legislature and Governor finalize the state budget due on April 1.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Carl Heastie have all authored small donor matching systems proposals in the past that were consistently blocked by Republicans in the Senate. The Governor has once again included a small donor matching proposal in this year’s executive budget, and with supportive majorities now in control of both the Assembly and Senate, the path is clear to get the job done.
The Fair Elections for New York campaign includes over 200 community, labor, tenant, immigrant, racial justice, environment, faith, good government, and grassroots resistance organizations who are building momentum to pass comprehensive campaign finance reform, including small donor public financing, in this year’s budget.
New Yorkers deserve a responsive, accountable government. Voter turnout in New York is among the lowest in the nation, due in part to antiquated procedures for registration and voting that discourage participation. And our campaign finance system favors the wealthy over everyday, working New Yorkers. To tackle the crises we face in housing, living wage jobs, criminal justice, affordable health care, transportation, climate, fair taxes, and more, we must transform a campaign finance system that advantages the interests of the few over those of the many.