ST. PAUL -- Hopes for reforming the state's campaign finance system died for the session Monday, as a far-reaching bill that would have moved toward full public financing of campaigns was voted down 12-15 in the Senate Finance Committee.
Numerous Republicans on the committee led the criticism against it, but the bill's fate was decided by eight Democrats, including the committee's chairman, who were not in the room when the final vote was taken.
"I don't know where they were," Sen. John Hottinger, DFL-Mankato, said of the absences.
Hottinger said the issue won't go away, vowing to try again next year. "There are a lot of members ... who are content with the current system because they keep getting elected under it."
His bill would have lowered contribution limits and had the state supply qualified candidates with up to 80 percent of their campaign spending limits.
That move would have roughly doubled the $13 million the state now spends on average to pay for its current system of partial public financing.
Several lawmakers complained that, with the state facing a deficit, this year is not a time to increase spending on candidates.
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