Proposal to repeal government funding in Florida elections moves forward

by | Feb 14, 2024

The Senate Rules Committee advanced a resolution on Wednesday to repeal Florida’s public campaign financing for statewide elections, proposing a constitutional amendment for voter consideration that could redirect funds to other state priorities.

The Senate Rules Committee advanced a resolution on Wednesday to eliminate public financing for statewide election campaigns, setting the stage for a potential overhaul of campaign funding practices in the state.

Senate Joint Resolution 1114 (SJR 1114), introduced by Sen. Travis Hutson, proposes a constitutional amendment to repeal the existing public financing program that matches funds for candidates running for statewide offices, including the governor and cabinet positions.

The resolution aims to eliminate the use of general revenue funds for campaign financing, with Hutson suggesting that the funds could be better allocated to other state needs such as water projects, affordable housing, and teacher salaries. Across the past four general election cycles, the state has expended more than $50 million on public campaign financing.

“We’re putting it to the voters to make the decision on whether we should spend general revenue funds helping candidates run for office, or on other means that could help our constituents,” Hutson told committee members.

If adopted into state statute following voter approval, SJR 1114 would mark a departure from the current system established in 1998, which was designed with the intention to ensure that all qualified candidates, regardless of financial background, could compete in statewide elections. The public financing system matches personal contributions from Florida residents to candidates’ campaigns, subject to certain criteria and spending limits.

The committee’s vote to advance the resolution came after hearing opposition from various groups, including voting rights organizations and environmental advocates. Critics of the repeal argue that public financing plays a crucial role in maintaining a level playing field in elections, encouraging a more diverse range of candidates to run for office. They contend that without such a system, political campaigns may become increasingly dominated by well-funded candidates, potentially limiting the democratic process.

“Public financing encourages a more diverse pool of candidates to participate in elections,” said Pastor Marcus McCoy speaking on behalf of Equal Grounds, a voting rights advocacy group. “Candidates who may be discouraged by the high cost of running a campaign are more likely to enter the political arena, leading to greater representation of various perspectives and demographics.”

The resolution requires a three-fifths vote from both houses of the Florida Legislature to be placed on the ballot. If it reaches the ballot, it would then need at least 60 percent approval from voters to amend the state constitution and officially repeal the public financing program.


%d bloggers like this: