By Tom Precious
ALBANY – Senate Republicans say a newly proposed public campaign finance system will cost taxpayers $221.5 million in an election cycle for statewide and legislative races – a number far higher than the amount estimated last week by Assembly Democrats.
Senate Republicans are pushing back at efforts by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, saying voters do not want their tax money going to fund political campaigns. Advocates say the measure is needed to help reduce the influence of money in New York campaigns and to give less wealthy candidates a fairer shot in running against incumbents or wealthy candidates.
The Senate Republicans say their analysis of a new bill by Assembly Democrats finds finds a general election campaign under a public finance system could cost $145 million – including $24 million for a governor’s race and $16 million apiece for the comptroller and attorney general. If there were 426 candidates running for Assembly and Senate seats – which would translate into 2 candidates per district in each house – taxpayers would be on the hook for about $90 million in a general campaign.
The GOP said the Assembly bill could cost another $76 million to finance primary races.
The GOP believes its numbers are conservative. For instance, they say the analysis is based only on major party candidates running, and that the tab would be higher if minor party candidates are on the ballot and qualify for funding under the Assembly’s funding formula. And they say the numbers assume only 25 percent of senators face a primary with just one of the candidates getting public matching dollars.
Silver has said the Assembly plan would cost about $50 million.
Advocates for a public finance campaign system said the Senate GOP estimates are bloated. The Campaign Finance Institute today said New York taxpayers would pay between $26 million to $41 million per year; the group said its numbers come from an analysis of the Assembly Democratic plan and studying donor trends from the 2010 and 2012 elections. The numbers were crunched by University at Albany professor Michael Malbin, who said his study was reviewed by peers. The groups also pointed to falling corruption convictions of Connecticut lawmakers since a public campaign finance system was implemented in 2008.