Our Policy Priorities for 2018
By Michael Hamill Remaley, Senior Vice President, Public Policy & Communications
This piece was originally published as the feature article of the January 2018 New York PhilanthroPost Policy Edition
From a policy perspective, last year was a tough one for the nonprofit sector. The GOP tax bill signed by President Trump raised the standard deduction for all Americans, which is likely to decimate the value of the charitable deduction. Experts have projected a $13 billion hit to nonprofit donations. The tax bill also doubled exemption levels for the estate tax, which will reduce the motivation for both bequests and the establishment of new foundations. A weakening of the Johnson Amendment was avoided only because the Senate parliamentarian ruled it couldn’t be included in a budget bill.
We have a great deal of work ahead of us. As our partners at United Philanthropy Forum, Council on Foundations, Philanthropy Roundtable, Independent Sector and National Council of Nonprofits regroup and strategize, we already know what one major priority will be: a universal charitable deduction.
Before I get to that, I would be remiss if I did not restate what you probably already know, that some of the most important policies affecting our community’s nonprofits are hammered out at the state and local level. That is why the PNY Board approved policy priorities and related activities for 2018 on eleven state and local issues, along with eleven federal issues, in our 2018 Public Policy Slate.
The idea of a universal charitable deduction may not be familiar to many in the nonprofit community, but it is a policy proposal that has widespread support in the sector’s leadership and increasing bipartisan support in Congress. When PNY’s membership weighed in last year on our position supporting “Tax Reform that Sustains and Grows Charitable Giving,” the policy statement included support for the universal charitable deduction. This position advocates for extending the charitable deduction to all tax payers, regardless of whether or not they itemize their taxes. According to Independent Sector research, “Expanding the charitable deduction to non-itemizers, as a stand-alone provision, [would] increase total giving by between 1.3 percent and 4.3 percent and [would have] a negligible effect on total tax revenue (decrease by 0.41 percent and 0.47).” We will be working with our national partners to advocate for the restoration of the full value of the charitable deduction by passing a universal charitable deduction.
Another topic that is newly articulated in the Slate this year is the item on “Full Funding for the 2020 Census.” Philanthropy New York has not taken an official position on this topic, but the Slate lays out some of the key facts and the PNY Board approved activities for 2018 that include communicating with the New York Congressional Delegation about the importance of full funding for the 2020 Census in the 2018, 2019 and 2020 federal budgets.
The fight to ensure nonprofit nonpartisanship and protect the Johnson Amendment is not over. Our partners in Washington believe that this will arise again in 2018. Philanthropy New York will continue to communicate with our representatives on both sides of the aisle about the effects weakening the Johnson Amendment would have on nonprofits and the entire political system.
These are just three of the federal issues contained in the 2018 Policy Slate. Other issues detailed in the Slate include the estate tax, private foundation excise tax, IRA charitable rollover, donor advised funds, IRS rules on political activity, private foundation distribution requirements, April 15 charitable deduction extension, and our policy perspective on the effects of lower federal revenues on nonprofits.
The 2018 Slate also has some new state and local issues. While we continue to pursue discussions with New York City and New York State leaders on government’s responsibility (according to 2014 federal OMB guidance) to reimburse for indirect costs, that issue has not yet been resolved to the satisfaction of the nonprofit community and we will continue to support their efforts to get to a resolution. Some of the new state and local issues we are newly tracking and potentially taking action on include:
- Full and Fair Census Count in New York State
- Nonprofits and the Cost of the Rising Minimum Wage
- Nonprofit Infrastructure Capital Improvement Program
- Value-Based Payments Commission Recommendations
If you are a funder supporting New York-based nonprofits, I encourage you to read about all of these issues and learn how your grantees are being affected by them, as well as the actions Philanthropy New York may take to support the nonprofit community.
Last year, the number of threats to our sector came at a fast pace and nonprofit leaders responded as quickly as possible. With this year’s Public Policy Slate approved by the Board even before the beginning of the year, we stand ready to take action and ensure that the voices of the nonprofit sector are heard and the communities we support valued.
If you have thoughts on additional policy matters, which fit within the parameters of our policy mandate (see our “Official Procedures for Public Policy Activities” here), that we should consider adding to our Slate, please share them with me.