Seattle City Council Introduces Public Financing Bill

campaign finance, Washington
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Space NeedleThe Seattle City Council has been discussing the idea of publicly financing campaigns and soon the decision could be in the hands of the voters. The City Council has been publicly studying the idea of reintroducing public financing for city elections since the beginning of the year. And on Monday, a bill was officially introduced, which if passed would allow the voters to decide on the issue.

Seattle, and the state of Washington, has had a long and winding history with publicly financing campaigns. Seattle had partial public financing in 1979 and 1981 and again from 1987-1991. In 1992, the state passed an initiative prohibiting public financing of campaigns. In 2008, the state somewhat reversed course and a passed a law allowing cities to enact public financing, but only if approved by a public vote and only if the funding is derived from local sources.

Fast forward to June 2013 and the City Council has introduced a bill to reenact public financing under the form of a six year tax levy. In short, under the plan, candidates could opt into the public financing system where they would receive six dollars for every one dollar raised.

To qualify for the maximum amount of allowable funds, $105,000 for the primary and an additional $105,000 for the general election, candidates would have to receive contributions from 600 residents of at least $10 each. The candidate’s spending would be limited to $140,000 for the primary and $245,000 for the primary and general elections combined.

The City Council is expected to pass the measure fairly easily. The proposal would then be placed on the November ballot and the city’s voters will decide whether Seattle will once again have public financing of its campaigns.

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