Despite a growing budget deficit that is expected to lead to layoffs and significant reductions in city services, the Richmond City Council on Tuesday voted to allow those seeking elected office to receive taxpayer dollars for their campaigns.
The public financing law, which has been in effect in Richmond since the 2008 elections, offers up to $25,000 in tax dollars to match funds raised by candidates for elected positions.
Supporters of the law say it attempts to level the playing field for candidates who do not benefit from corporate campaign donations.
Councilman Corky Booze opposed continuing the public financing law Tuesday, calling it political welfare and saying the city can no longer afford it in the face of a growing $7 million budget deficit. More than dozen people are seeking city council seats and four are vying for mayor in the upcoming November elections, Booze said, which could potentially cost the city nearly $500,000.
Councilman Jim Rogers, however, supports public funding to allow challengers a fighting chance to be elected.
“It does give challengers a chance to compete against well-funded incumbents, and that’s good for the city,” Rogers said.
Rogers also argued that the public financing law has thus far been relatively low-cost. According to the city, $115,000 in taxpayer funds were doled out during the 2008 elections, $245,000 in the 2010 elections and $140,000 in the 2012 elections.