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Political donation refund could end

Published (5/20/2011)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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Calling the political contribution refund program “an illegitimate function of government,” Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) said its repeal would save the state approximately $12 million per biennium.

A bill he sponsors to do just that, HF66, was passed 69-61 by the House May 16. It was laid on the table May 17 by the Senate. Sen. David Senjem (R-Rochester) is the Senate sponsor.

The bill would eliminate the refund program, which was suspended by 2010 legislation, but is scheduled to be reinstated on July 1, 2011.

Under the program, contributions to a Minnesota political party or candidates qualified for a state-paid refund of up to $50 a year for individuals or $100 for a married couple. Only contributions to candidates who signed an agreement with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board to observe state campaign spending limits qualified for the refund.

Drazkowski said the program has its origin in 1990, first formed as a tax credit and later changed to a tax refund. He said Minnesota is one of five other states to have such a program.

Rep. Larry Howes (R-Walker) spoke against the bill. “It is an incumbency protection bill. This bill makes it more difficult for a challenger to raise money and makes it difficult to get elected.”

“The PCR program is a model that elections groups look to be emulated, because it increases the power and influence of regular people,” said Rep. Kent Eken (DFL-Twin Valley). “It pushes candidates and constituents to connect with each other. … Not only are you limiting the voice of the people, you are expanding the power of deep pockets.”

The bill’s provisions have also been agreed to by the House and Senate as part of the omnibus tax bill (HF42*/ SF27).

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