BEST USE OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS - 2003
In 1990, DFLers engineered a couple of "matching funds" and state-paid mechanisms for statewide elections that remains an admired model nationally. The idea is to provide a box on income tax returns so that taxpayers can contribute $5 to go to general campaign subsidies--and the individual donor gets the money back. Another aspect ensures that the state will pay $50 to a campaign for each $50 donation the candidate receives, provided that he or she agrees to spending limits. In short, it allows for cash-strapped candidates to get matching funds from the state, so long as they garner five percent of the general vote come Election Day. Though DFLers have championed the plan, Republicans and third-party candidates have made smart use of the donations as well. Jesse Ventura is perhaps the most notorious benefactor, getting money to pay back a loan he took out to finance his gubernatorial bid in 1998. In other words, it's a fair system for candidates and voters, ensuring clean elections and staving off a dependence on big-money donors. Earlier this year, Gov. Tim Pawlenty's "budget czar" Dan McElroy proposed taking away the state's reimbursement to the taxpayer and limiting the state's matching fund contribution to $25. Sadly, it appears that another innovative state program is poised to bite the dust.