Which cities have public funding programs?

The biggest programs, and the ones that have received the most scholarly attention, are in New York and Los Angeles. But other cities also have public funding programs, some of them older than New York's.

Seattle enacted the first municipal public funding program in 1978. Like more recent partial funding programs, the program provided matching funds for contributions to candidates who agreed to contribution and spending limits. Funding came from a voluntary checkoff on municipal utilities bills. The program ended in 1992 when a state ballot measure banned public funding in state and local elections. A local ballot measure to revive the Seattle program narrowly failed in 2013.45

But in 2015, Seattle voters once again made their city a reform pioneer. By a large margin they passed a program that would give $100 vouchers to every registered voter in the city. The vouchers can be used only to make contributions to candidates who accept contribution and spending limits. Seattle's new program, the first public funding voucher system passed at any level of government, will take effect in the 2017 election.46

Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico, provide full funding for mayoral and city council candidates who agree to spending limits. Tucson, Arizona, provides partial funding through matching funds for small contributions. Portland, Oregon's program covered only candidates for mayor and two other executive offices and was intended to be in effect for only two election cycles before being placed on the ballot for voter approval; it failed by a slim margin in 2010.47

Los Angeles enacted its program by ballot in 1990, but legal challenges by public-funding opponents delayed it from being put into effect until 1993. As with the presidential fund, candidates have to qualify for the program by raising a certain amount of money in small donations. Once qualified, they got public matching funds for individual contributions up to one-third of an office's expenditure limit for the primary election and one-half of the limit for the general. In 2013, the City Council increased the matches to two-to- one for the primary and four-to-one for the general.48

The local program that has attracted the most attention is New York City's. It was enacted in 1988 and is widely regarded as a model for how to do public funding at all levels of government.

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