What is it?

The State of Minnesota has been experimenting with public financing measures for more than 40 years. In 1974, in response to the Watergate scandal, the state enacted a public financing program for candidates for statewide office, financed through an income tax check-off. The 1974 reforms also provided a tax credit for individuals who contributed to candidates and political parties. The current version of the state’s public financing system consists of a partial grant to candidates who agree to spending limits. Contributors to publicly funded candidates are eligible to have up to $50 of their political contribution refunded by the state.

 How is it funded?

The public subsidy grant is paid for by legislative appropriation and a state income tax check-off.

 Who may participate? 

Candidates for governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state auditor, senate and state representative.

How does a candidate qualify?

There are several requirements to qualify for the public subsidy program:

  • The candidate must sign and file a public subsidy agreement and abide by the applicable campaign expenditure limits;
  • The candidate must raise a set amount of monetary contributions. Only the first $50 contributed by people eligible to vote in Minnesota count toward the total. The amount that must be raised varies by office;
  • The candidate must have an opponent in either the primary or general election;
  • The candidate’s committee must file the required pre-primary report and
  • The candidate must appear on the general election ballot.

Contributions Required To Qualify For The Public Subsidy Program

Attorney General$15,000
Secretary of State$6,000
State Auditor$6,000
State Representative$1,500


What is the amount of the grant?  

The amount of the public subsidy grant varies by year and the office sought by the candidate.

2014 Public Subsidy Payments

Attorney General$35,621
Secretary of State$20,355
State Auditor$20,355
State Representative$2,560


Who is eligible for the refund?

Contributors to candidates participating in the public subsidy program may be eligible for a contribution refund. The refund is equal to the amount contributed up to a maximum of $50 ($100 for married couples).

How has the program worked?


A vast majority of candidates have opted into Minnesota’s public financing system. In 2014, 312 candidates ran for an office eligible to participate in the program. Of those 312 candidates, 88.5 percent (276 candidates) signed voluntary agreements to abide by the spending limits and other requirements to be eligible for the subsidy. The spending limit requirement includes some modifications, giving the program some flexibility to accommodate different candidates and races: First-time candidates get a 10 percent spending limit increase; candidates with a closely contested primary may receive a 20 percent increase and in certain circumstances, a candidate can be released from the spending limit agreement if their opponent does not sign a public subsidy agreement. The Minnesota public financing program has been revised several times since its enactment in 1974, keeping it an attractive and viable option for candidates.