Statement to the Senate Committee on Education, Ethics and Elections in support of Senate Bill 337

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign urges the committee to support Senate Bill 337. Statement to the Senate Committee on Education, Ethics and Elections in support of Senate Bill 337

February 25, 2004

Posted: February 27, 2004

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign urges the committee to support Senate Bill 337.

SB 337 prohibits incumbent partisan elective state officials from accepting contributions during the state biennial budget process. The bill has bipartisan support and is a key provision of Senate Bill 12, a comprehensive reform package that we endorse and which also is before this committee.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign has for many years supported legislation to prohibit elected state officials from soliciting and accepting contributions during the state budget process. We documented in a series of reports last year how the process of formulating our state budgets has been turned into an auction where policy and spending decisions are determined by special interest campaign contributions rather than the public interest or the merits of the issues. We identified more than $5 billion worth of tax breaks, pork barrel spending and other policy favors that have been given to big campaign contributors who have donated over $46 million to state lawmakers in the last 10 years.

During last year’s budget process alone, legislators and the governor collected $1.9 million in campaign contributions while budget decisions were being made. Current legislative leaders and the four partisan legislative campaign committees they control raised 73% more than they brought in during the previous budget process. The budget spared wealthy special interests any pain associated with closing a $3 billion shortfall. Special interests kept the $5 billion in perks they already had and were given at least $203.8 million worth of additional breaks. The burden of painful cuts and tax increases needed to balance the budget fell on people who do not make large campaign contributions.

Please move SB 337 out of committee and enable floor action this session. This bill is a modest but necessary step toward comprehensive campaign finance reform in Wisconsin.