A federal appeals court has upheld Florida's public campaign finance law, which allows statewide political candidates to use tax dollars if they agree to certain limits.

Democrats, who are struggling to keep pace with Republican Jeb Bush in the race for governor, praised Tuesday's ruling by the 1st District Court of Appeal. Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay trails Bush in fund-raising by a 3-1 margin."Today's ruling reaffirms that elections are not for sale in our state," said Gov. Lawton Chiles, a Democrat who benefited from the law four years ago. His campaign received a late cash infusion that helped him beat Bush in the closest governor's race in state history.

Florida's public campaign finance law allows statewide candidates to get tax dollars if they agree to limit spending to $5 million in the governor's race and to $2 million for positions in the state cabinet. If opponents spend more, public dollars make up the difference.

Bush, the son of former President Bush, went well beyond the limit in 1994, freeing the additional cash for Chiles. Bush is threatening to do the same thing this year, having raised $6.3 million to MacKay's $2.1 million.