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State Lawmakers Trade Ideas to Cover Budget Deficit, With Focus on Campaign Financing

Ryan Caron King
Senate minority leader Len Fasano during a visit to WNPR.

A proposal by Democratic state legislators to suspend Connecticut’s public campaign financing system for the 2016 elections was criticized by election reform advocates this week. Republican legislative leaders, too, expressed their skepticism that it would make a difference during an appearance on WNPR.

Lawmakers are trying to figure out how to balance the state budget and close a $370 million gap. Suspending the campaign funds would save $11.7 million, an act critics said could permanently harm the program.

The bipartisan State Clean Elections Enforcement Commission on Tuesday issued a unanimous joint resolution opposing the change. It warned the suspension could set the Citizens Election Fund “on course for permanent under-funding” and lead candidates to rely on campaign contributions from special interests.

Speaking on WNPR’s Where We Live, Senate minority leader Len Fasano questioned the logic behind the proposal. “I don’t want to comment on their proposal,” he said, “except to say: I’m curious as to the philosophy to say we need it – but we just don’t need it for 2016.”

Republican lawmakers proposed a permanent 20 percent cut to the Citizens Election Fund.

Credit Ryan Caron King / WNPR
House minority leader Themis Klarides speaking on WNPR's "Where We Live."

House minority leader Themis Klarides said on Where We Live that maintaining the fund is a responsible thing to do.

“Remember, this coming year is going to be the entire House, and the entire Senate up,” Klarides said. “But three years from now, it’s the governor, all the constitutional offices, and the House and Senate. So that’s the year where the big money is in there.”

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said a one-year suspension of the program would save the state money, while giving the legislature an opportunity to make the program more effective. 

This report includes information from The Associated Press.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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