May 7, 2010; Washington Business Journal | In NPQ’s coverage of state and local governments eager to tax nonprofits, we’ve discerned the whiff of some surprising animus toward the nonprofit sector—notably the example of the Alabama Dental Association trying to shut down a nonprofit dental center serving the poor for no justifiable reason that we could see. In Washington D.C., the local government is trying to figure out how to balance the city’s budget without enacting several fee and tax increases proposed by Mayor Adrian Fenty.
Some of the new taxes might hit nonprofits, such as a tax on the income of hospitals. In comments from the City Council, one jumped out at us as a combination of enmity and ignorance about the nonprofit sector. At-large Councilman Kwame Brown, a candidate to become City Council chair, was quoted as saying, “We have to stop running this government like a nonprofit, where we spend, spend, spend and then raise fees to cover it.” No offense, Councilman Brown, but what the heck are you talking about? What nonprofit sector do you think you’re looking at? Where in the world are nonprofits simply spending and then raising fees, when many serve low-income populations that can’t bear fee increases, and in many localities, nonprofits are strapped by the combination of government grant and contract cutbacks and a significant decrease this past year in charitable and foundation grants?
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Now nonprofits are the straw men and women for politicians to whack when they want to score points, eh? Councilman Brown, please visit some of the astoundingly impressive nonprofits serving metropolitan D.C. such as the D.C. Central Kitchen, Manna (affordable housing), Casa de Maryland (immigrant services and rights), the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, the Latin American Youth Center, Martha’s Table, Tenants and Workers United, and so many others. Maybe you’d discover that running the D.C. government like the best of metropolitan Washington’s nonprofit organizations would be a significant improvement over D.C.’s current governmental muck and mire.—Rick Cohen