A system of publicly financed campaigns is set to take effect for the new election cycle. But as state lawmakers negotiate an estimated $227 billion budget plan that would ostensibly include funding for the program, some lawmakers have raised issues with the specifics of how a donor matching system would work.
The program is meant to create a system in which candidates for elected office receive public money matched by private donations to their campaigns. The change has been a long-sought measure for good-government advocates who want to lessen the impact of big money in politics.
Lawmakers over the last month have raised the possibility of delaying the program amid the concerns and as the state Assembly is going through a court-ordered redistricting process this year.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Thursday told reporters the redistricting process is "not a factor" in the public financing debate. Instead, lawmakers are worried about the impact of donor matching, pointing to how donations that surpass limits from a single donor would not qualify for public matching funds.
"There are issues that need to be fixed in the campaign finance law," Heastie said.
He used the example of how the New York City campaign finance system has more relaxed provisions for qualifying for public matching dollars compared to the state system.
"I do think if things go forward, it has to be fixed," Heastie said.
Good-government advocates have urged lawmakers to fully fund the system.
“New Yorkers celebrated when Albany committed to reform when it passed the landmark Public Campaign Finance Program, and now we need lawmakers to follow through on that promise to voters,” said Karen Wharton, Democracy Coalition coordinator for Citizen Action for New York. “Our state is closer than ever to ensuring everyday New Yorkers can participate in a stronger democracy and push back against Big Money that has historically shut them out. Gov. Hochul and the legislature must work together to make New York State a nationwide model for fair elections without delay.”