While state and local government leaders are in the midst of their most perilous financial circumstances since the Great Depression, legislators are still finding new ways to spend money. In “Bad Bill of the Week,” we are highlighting a bill that would make cities and towns put into action PUBLIC FINANCING OF MUNICIPAL ELECTION CAMPAIGNS.
House Bill 120 penned by Reps. Glazier, Goodwin, Harrison, and Wilkins would establish a “Pilot Program” for publically financed municipal campaigns. The history of pilot programs in N.C. is that they are almost always expanded at ever-increasing costs.
In 2007, the General Assembly passed another Elections Pilot to publicly fund three elections for Council of State candidates. This pilot program, along with other publically funded election programs, costs the taxpayers of North Carolina millions. The reason given to implement these programs is; “…interest that the potential for corruption or the appearance of corruption is minimized…” This legislation has been created despite the fact that no “corruption,” as a result of the current campaign system, has been shown. The last several politicians in North Carolina to go to prison have gone due to the result of taking actual cash for legislation and favors, or failing to follow the laws already in place.
This year has already seen the introduction of Senate Bill 20, a bill to expand the list of state offices eligible for public financing, which was originally established in an Elections Pilot bill last session.
An interesting note on one of the sponsors of PUBLIC FINANCING OF MUNICIPAL ELECTION CAMPAIGNS, Rep. Melanie Goodwin (D – Richmond), was her introduction of House Bill 2649 last year. This legislation authorized another $3.58 million for the Council of State elections. One of the beneficiaries of this spending turned out to be her husband, Wayne Goodwin who won election as N.C. Commissioner of Insurance in 2008 using taxpayer dollars. This additional spending reveals how public financing of campaigns always ends up costing more than originally promised.
I don’t think I can end my comments any better than the way I ended my first “Bad Bill” winner. With all of the troubles the state of North Carolina is facing: multi-billion dollar shortfalls in budgeting; high school drop-out rates through the roof; people dying in state mental hospitals, surely there is something more important to spend money on than subsidizing politicians running for office?