Insurance Commissioner Jim Long remembers when politicians just had to buy a few Cokes at the country store.
Nowadays, it can cost as much as $350,000 to run for his job.
After 22 years in office, Long said he has seen a change from when candidates had to go door to door, get endorsements from county sheriffs and put up "lots and lots of yard signs."
"The current system is broken," he said.
Atkinson said the proposed program would force candidates to earn "sweat equity" and reward grassroots campaigning by lining up number of small donations to qualify for public financing.
Merritt has said he is interested in the proposal, but he made no public statement.