C. Oregon non-profits fight to save tax deductions

Say legislation could cause their efforts great harm

Local nonprofits fight state bill

BEND, Ore. - Each year, donations to MountainStar Family Relief Nursery begin to flow in right before January. People want to give -- but they also want that tax year-end tax deduction.

"People ask for them, they're motivated by them -- it's very important,"  MountainStar Executive Director Tim Rusk said Wednesday.

But a bill in the Oregon Legislature would eliminate that deduction, part of an effort for the state to generate more tax dollars.

House Bill 2001 was introduced by House Speaker Tina Kotek, and would end most itemized state tax deductions. In addition to charitable donations, medical expenses and home mortgage interest deductions could also be eliminated.

Local nonprofits fear they will lose funding they depend on, and the needy people they serve will suffer.

"It's really scary, because it's 28 nonprofit partners that we work with --all providing vital services," said Deschutes Children's Foundation Executive Director Kim McNamer.

McNamer said her nonprofit helps other nonprofits, providing rent-free office space and classrooms at four centers around Deschutes County.

She said her foundation relies on donations, and families rely on the easy access to multiple organizations within each center.

"MountainStar has one client who has talked about how she wouldn't  be able to get around and afford gas to go to a different number of places," McNamer said.

Rusk said MountainStar gets 60 percent of its funding from private donations.

McNamer says the Deschutes Children's Foundation gets 50 percent of its budget from nonprofits it houses in its buildings. The other half comes from private donations.

The situation is even more dire for the Ronald McDonald House in Bend. Executive Director Kristy Krugh said her organization is 95 percent dependent on private donations. 

Krugh said if charitable tax deductions are eliminated, she doesn't think the facility for families of hospitalized children could survive.

Krugh said getting rid of the deductions would hurt the state in the long run. If nonprofits end services for the needy, more will depend on state funding for help and emergencies.

Last week, local nonprofits met with state Rep. Jason Conger to express their concerns, and he vowed to join their fight to stop the bill.

"It would be very harmful and hurt their ability to raise the private funds portion of their budget, which means that the people they serve would also be hurt," Conger said in a phone interview Wednesday.

A slash in nonprofit budgets could impact vulnerable residents.

"That would mean for us, reducing from serving about 300 children a year, down to serving 100," Rusk said.

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