“The Moreland Commission’s report, released yesterday, confirms the actual cost of a small donor matching funds system for New York State.  Skeptics of public financing of elections are unfortunately using a discredited exaggerated cost for the system.  But we must use the facts in order to have a real discussion about how to how to end corruption in Albany. In fact, public financing would save taxpayers potentially billions by ending the pay-to-play system that gives away billions of taxpayers’ dollars to big contributors,” said Karen Scharff, Executive Director of Citizen Action New York on behalf of the Fair Elections Campaign.


Opponents started claiming that public financing will cost $100 million dollars then increased it to $200 million, then $220 million and now $300 million, clearly searching for a number big enough to make public financing seem unreasonable. It has been demonstrated that there is no solid analysis behind any of these numbers. An objective and thorough study of public financing found it would cost about $40 million a year for matching funds and another $20 million for administration and enforcement, about $3 per New Yorker a year, an analysis endorsed by the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption.

Moreland Report page 47. “The total cost, then, would be no more than $62 million per year. That is roughly 2/3 of one-tenth of one percent of New York’s $90 billion state operating funds budget. This is about $3.20 per New Yorker.”


Any discussion of costs should always look at both sides. What will a policy cost and what could it save? Since the current pay-to-play system involves giving away literally billions of taxpayers’ dollars, the savings could be many times the cost.

Moreland co-chair Bill Fitzpatrick on WRVO:  “…the savings ultimately would be astronomical in the long run.  When you eliminate that “pay to play” mentality.”

Moreland Report Page 29. Public funding will cost money, although the amount is likely to be very small and justified by the savings that will result from a more accountable government.

Page 47. And what will the average New Yorker get for $3.20 per year? It is impossible to quantify with certainty, but the Commission believes that reducing the role of big donors in financing campaigns will reduce in turn the pressures donors place on our elected officials to provide targeted tax breaks for special interests and to spend public funds on pork barrel projects of doubtful public value. In many years the elimination of just one wasteful tax expenditure or one unnecessary spending program could cover the full cost of the program. As the New York Times editorial board aptly put it: “[M]ost deep-pocketed donors cost the taxpayer dearly. They do so by demanding special treatment – enacting this law, undoing that one – in ways that benefit them, not all of us.”

Karen Scharff on Huffington Post: “How much would public financing save? Unfortunately, we can’t simply add up the almost $30 billion of tax breaks in that list above for a variety of reasons. But given that those are all real existing tax breaks, it’s pretty obvious that elected officials actually working for the people who elected them would cut out the ones that are not doing any good and easily save over $1 billion a year.”