Cities who want public financing of election campaigns would have to pay for it, under a bill moving through the House.
The bill would allow cities and towns to create public finance programs in which qualified candidates would use taxpayer money to run for office. The programs would be similar to those used in judicial and council of state elections. It is up to the city or town's elected leaders to decide whether to set up a program.
The State Board of Elections would monitor and administer the elections and the number of municipalities participating would be limited by the funds the board has to administer the elections.
The idea behind public financing is to make running for municipal office easier, proponents say.
"It is in essence about good government," said Rep. Rick Glazier, a Fayetteville Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill.
Rep. Paul Stam, an Apex Republican, said he opposes the bill because it would force taxpayers to pick up the tab for political advertising that could be false, offensive or even racist.
"This is a solution in search of a problem," Stam said.
Dallas Woodhouse, state director of Americans for Prosperity, a libertarian group, said that the bill won't take the money out of campaigns. It will steer it to groups such as his, which will still be involved in elections.
Russ Stephenson, a Raleigh City Councilman said he had to raise $60,000 to win his at-large council seat. He said he would like to have the option for publicly financed elections. Running for council, a part-time job that pays $11,000, has become more difficult.
"It is increasingly a high-stakes endeavor, a high-cost endeavor," he said.