AUGUSTA — State senators agreed Tuesday to pump another $4.7 million into the Maine Clean Election Fund to ensure there will be enough next year to cover legislative and gubernatorial candidates who choose to participate in the program.

By an 18-16 vote, senators declined to go along with Republican Majority Leader Garrett Mason’s assertion that the money isn’t needed.

A majority agreed to restore $1.7 million taken from the fund in the past and to toss in a $3 million payment slated for 2019 seven months early.

Senators also agreed with their House colleagues to kill a bill that sought to end public financing for the governor’s race.

“We welcome this bipartisan support for clean elections, and strongly urge the Legislature to ensure the full amount of funding that voters approved so that House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates can be confident that the funding for which they qualify will be there for them,” Andrew Bossie, executive director of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, said in a written statement.

Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, told lawmakers recently that projected revenues for the Clean Election Fund “may not be sufficient to make the required payments to candidates.”

“Depending on the participation in the legislative and gubernatorial programs in 2018, the Maine Clean Election Fund could experience a shortfall,” Wayne said in his testimony.

Mason said, though, that the fund “is sitting on an excess of more than $3 million” so it could get by without the additional cash.

Sen. Benjamin Chipman, D-Portland, told the Lisbon Falls lawmaker, however, that without the influx of extra money, there may well be too little to pay for participating candidates next year.

Maine voters approved the Maine Clean Election Act in 1996 and have backed it at the polls since then, most recently in 2015 when they agreed to put $3 million annually into the fund.

Candidates who participate in the Clean Election Fund agree to pay for their campaigns with public money and don’t tap into private donations.

Poll volunteer Rhonda Allen, left, helps Peyton Dyer, 10, enter the ballot of his mother, Tory Dyer, into the voting machine at Washburn Elementary School in Auburn on Nov. 8, 2016.


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