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MANP's 2015 Legislative Priorities

by Lori Gramlich

MANP’s advocacy program has three primary goals:

  1. Build the capacity of the nonprofit sector in Maine to engage in the democratic process in order to strengthen the causes they serve. We provide tools and resources to support nonprofits to be effective advocates and lobbyists, and encourage and equip nonprofits to get involved with specific issues and campaigns.
  2. Educate the public on the important role of Maine’s charitable nonprofit sector in civil society. Watch out for our 2015 Adding Up Impact: Maine Nonprofits at Work report, which will be published next week, and which demonstrates how nonprofits are an essential part of Maine’s economy and quality of life.
  3. Promote public policy that allows nonprofits to thrive and best serve their communities. We advocate on behalf of the Maine nonprofit sector on public policy issues that impact all nonprofits. We educate policymakers on issues affecting Maine nonprofits and the economic and social impact of Maine’s nonprofit sector.

Priorities for 127th Legislature

In general, MANP supports:

  • Policies that protect the tax-exempt status of nonprofits.
  • Tax policies that increase charitable support for the sector + public policy that assists fundraising and increases charitable giving to the sector.
  • An appropriate level of government regulation and enforcement to protect the public’s interest while upholding the integrity of the nonprofit sector.

MANP opposes:

  • Tax initiatives that would result in dividing 501(c)(3) organizations based on subject matter and philosophy
  • Policies that place unnecessary burdens on the contractual relationship between government and nonprofit service providers
  • Policies that unnecessarily increase nonprofit business costs or interfere with their sound business practices

Issues we are are actively following include:

State Biennial Budget and Nonprofit Property Tax Exemptions – MANP will be closely following the Governor’s proposed budget, which includes an overhaul of Maine’s tax structure. Proposals include elimination of the state income tax, allowing municipalities to tax nonprofits with property values of $500K or more, and eliminating municipal revenue sharing – all of which will have adverse implications for Maine nonprofits.

  • Imposition of service charges would adversely impact and compromise nonprofits’ ability to serve the community.
  • Nonprofits earn their property tax exemption by alleviating some of the burdens of government and by improving our communities.
  • MANP will monitor and oppose all legislation that jeopardizes the property tax-exempt status of nonprofits through mechanisms such as Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILOTS) and other service charges on nonprofit tax-exempt property.
  • We will be closely tracking and providing updates on this issue, as well as resources members can use, at www.NonprofitMaine.org/2015TaxUpdates.

Salary Disclosure – In 2001, new accountability rules which would increase nonprofit compliance obligations and expand the Attorney General’s oversight of Maine Nonprofit Corporations and their Directors and Officers were implemented.

  • Nonprofit salaries are already public – compensation disclosure is required by the IRS in Part IV of the 990 filing requirement.
  • Most Maine nonprofit corporations are not required to hold open meetings (Board, membership, or committee meetings) because they are not subject to the Maine Freedom of Access Act.
  • MANP will oppose legislation which compromises these rules, requires nonprofit salary disclosure, and other intrusions such as opening up nonprofit board meetings to the public.

Charitable Contributions – Our slowly recovering economy requires increasing investments by charitable individuals in nonprofit organizations that serve all regions of Maine and employ 1 in 7 Maine workers.

  • Proposals to eliminate the itemized deductions may have adverse implications on nonprofits.
  • MANP supports legislation that protects and streamlines charitable giving and contributions and will oppose any legislation that will compromise charitable giving.
  • MANP will support policy and legislation which promotes volunteerism and will oppose any legislation that jeopardizes the ability of nonprofits to engage with volunteers.
  • Note that MANP put a great deal of energy into a bill that would restore full deductibility for charitable contributions during the 126th session with some success. MANP’s advocacy committee opted not to submit legislation for the 127th that would make further changes by restoring full deductibility a year earlier than called for in last year’s bill.  This decision was made in part due to the Governor’s statements regarding elimination of income taxes and nonprofits not paying their fair share.  Rather, in an effort to address the itemized deduction cap, MANP will be exploring all bill titles submitted which are potentially germane to this issue, with an eye toward offering an amendment that would eliminate the cap in tax year 2016 rather than tax year 2017.

Bills We’re Watching

  • LD 13 An Act to Provide an Exemption in Sales Tax and Service Providers to Tax Nonprofit Collaboratives of Libraries. This bill provides an exemption from sales tax and service provider tax for certain nonprofit library collaboratives.

The following are bill titles we’re following, but they are still being written and assigned an LD # through the State’s Revisers office:

  • LR 1491 – An Act to Provide Consistency in the Application of the Property  Tax Exemption for Religious Organizations
  • LR 1737 – An Act to Limit  Property Tax Increases
  • LR412 – An Act to Provide Property Tax Relief to Maine Working Families
  • LR 228  – An Act to Allow Municipalities to Levy Service Charges on Real Estate Owned by Nonprofit Entities
  • LR469 – An Act to Allow Municipalities to Impose Service Charges on Tax-Exempt Property Owned by Certain Nonprofits
  • LR 1610 – An Act to Reduce the Burden of Property Taxes on Maine Residents
  • LR 1496 – An Act to Clarify Charitable Status for Property Tax Exemptions
  • LR 1790 – An Act to Amend the Laws Governing taxation
  • LR 1756 – Resolve – To Study the tax Exemption Provided to Nonprofit Entities
  • LR 1511 – An Act to Reduce Property Taxes
  • LR 1396 – An Act top Ensure Fairness in the Distribution of Sales Tax Generated in Maine Municipalities
  • LR 813 – An Act to Maintain Support to Municipalities and Assist with Property Tax

For a complete list of all submitted pieces of legislation go to: http://legislature.maine.gov/lio.

MANP thanks our Advocacy Network, whose support ensure that MANP can maintain a strong advocacy program. If your organization would like to join the Advocacy Network, please contact Lori Gramlich.

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