John Irons's Blog


Economic News, Data and Analysis

Independent Sector on Government Support

An exerpt from “Purpose, Power, and Participation: Ideas for the Future of Our Sector” by Diana Aviv, President and CEO, INDEPENDENT SECTOR

Independent Sector | 2003 Annual Conference
First, I believe we must act to preserve our capacity for service, and that means taking a hard look at our relationship to government—or I should say, governments in the plural. Government policy and priorities and funding have a profound effect on the lives of Americans and for that matter on the fortunes of other nations. Laws, regulations, and policy directions determine who is included and who is excluded, who is protected and who is prosecuted, who is assisted and who is left out. Nothing more clearly reflects our nation’s priorities and our values than our national and state and local budgets.
Right now about one dollar in three in the budgets of nonprofits comes from federal or state or local government. And among those nonprofits involved in health and human services, government’s share of the budget is more than one dollar in every two, about 52 percent. Because of recently enacted large tax cuts, a soft economy, the cost of foreign and domestic wars on terrorism, and growing entitlement programs, gigantic deficits are expected to loom over us for the next five to ten years. The government pie is shrinking—and legislators in Congress and the state houses are making choices, choices that often reflect their values and their priorities and that almost always reflect the new constricted economy.
We can spend our efforts quarreling with each other about which of our diverse interests—helping poor people, protecting the environment, fostering the arts, and so forth—which interests deserve to survive in a time of austerity. But that is the last thing we ought to be doing. We should not be clashing over crumbs. We should be fighting for substantial and sustainable support from the federal government and the states. That cannot be done simply by reallocating what is left of the pie. It is time for us to press for a larger pie—whether that includes rolling back the massive tax cuts of recent years or increasing public revenues in some other way. State legislatures and governors of both parties began down this road just a few months ago to close their state budget gaps. In the years ahead these all too modest efforts should be augmented as a result of actions focused on public office holders, both Republican and Democrat, mounted by all of our organizations, working together, regardless of our particular interests. This is not a partisan statement or even a political one. Members of both parties in a number of cities and state houses have been working toward such goals.


Filed under: Policy

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