Legislature has Golden Opportunity to Address Budget this Session

OpEd by Marnie Taylor, President and CEO

On February 5, the Legislature reconvenes at the Capitol for what will be another challenging session. Thousands of bills have been filed, but the word on everyone’s mind this session is “budget.”

Last week, the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits endorsed the Step Up Oklahoma Plan, encouraging the Legislature to consider a number of various pieces of legislation and policy issues to shore up the state’s ailing budget. This was not without a great deal of thought and care on the part of me, my staff and our board of directors. As the Legislature convenes next week, it is imperative they hear from Oklahomans – particularly our nonprofit sector – about how to create a budget that serves the needs of all Oklahomans.

The Step Up Oklahoma plan is one of several plans that does just that. It is a necessary, bipartisan solution to years of budget problems faced by Oklahoma. It signaled for the first time an important coming together of business and civic leaders to endorse a multi-pronged approach to fixing our budget. For too long, Oklahomans and the nonprofits that improve our communities have been challenged because of the budget woes that resulted in stagnant funding and cuts affecting various charities. By addressing long-term revenue needs through the Step Up Oklahoma Plan, our Legislature has the opportunity to put the well-being of Oklahomans first.

While the Center hopes to hear more details about how the revenue can be allocated, it especially appreciates the intention of making the budget whole. Nonprofits continue to see demand for services rise while resources dwindle.

I am especially grateful that this plan did not harm our charitable giving incentives. The federal tax reform package passed at the end of 2017 will most likely have a negative effect on giving. By maintaining the incentives to give in Oklahoma by not capping charitable giving, we can continue to expand our generosity through philanthropy. At the same time, we hope nonprofits who also receive state funding can begin to feel some relief if not optimism should we shore up our budgetary problems.

We employ almost 10 percent of the workforce in the state, and nonprofits are a huge economic driver both in the wages and economic impact they provide and also in the savings our organizations provide to communities. However, our business model is maintained on both private and public funding. My hope is that the Legislature will be able to come together and implement the necessary budgetary and reform proposals that will help nonprofits serve more Oklahomans more efficiently and effectively.

Most importantly, the upcoming Legislative session holds an opportunity for our elected policy makers to show leadership, courage and conviction to help Oklahomans thrive. I encourage all nonprofits – their staff, volunteers, board members and consumers – to stand for their missions through advocacy, public participation in these most important conversations and communication with their own legislators. Let’s work together as Oklahomans to help all of our citizens flourish.

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