Until 2011, Wisconsin was one of only a few states that provided for public financing of judicial candidates (in this case, for the supreme court). The plan was only adopted in May 2010 as SB 40 of that year and fell under the budget ax 13 months later in June 2011 (see this item from Gavel Grab for details). Bills introduced last week, however, may resurrect a heavily modified version of the program.
Under AB 317 and SB 213 taxpayers could designate $1 of their state income taxes to an Election Campaign Fund. A fiscal estimate attached to the bills expects the program to cost about $265,500 every two years and the bill puts $1,128,600 into the new Fund to start it.
However, unlike the original public financing plan, which was specific to the state supreme court, this new program would be open to candidates seeking various offices, including any candidate for a partisan state office, except district attorney. Candidates in the primary election (independents would have their name added to the ballot) who receive at least 6 percent of the total vote cast would be eligible to receive a grant from the fun.
Another big difference: the new program would rely on whatever moneys are in the fund in a given year. For example in those years in which there is an election for supreme court justice, candidates for that office would receive 8 percent of the money in the fund divided equally among them. This is in contrast with the 2010 law which set specific funds available for Supreme Court candidates ($100,000 in the spring primary and $300,000 in the general election).
AB 317 is currently pending in the Assembly Election and Campaign Reform Committee while SB 213 is in the Senate Transportation and Elections Committee.