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Minnesota nonprofits blast federal tax cut proposals

Minnesota nonprofit leaders are speaking out against Republican tax cut proposals advancing in Congress.

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Linda Driessen
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Minnesota nonprofit leaders are speaking out against Republican tax cut proposals advancing in Congress.

Linda Driessen, executive director of Bear Creek Services, joined more than two dozen nonprofits who sent out press releases urging members of Congress to reject the tax plans.

"I just feel like I need to be a voice for people who don't have the ability to speak for themselves," Driessen said in an interview.

The Rochester nonprofit provides services to individuals with developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injuries. Driessen said she fears that tax proposals could be a double whammy for the nonprofit — leading to fewer charitable donations and setting the stage for future cuts to Medicaid and Medicare to help pay for the $1.5 trillion proposals.

The GOP tax plans call for nearly doubling the standard deduction. As a result, fewer taxpayers would be expected to itemize deductions, including for charitable donations. Driessen said charitable giving is becoming a bigger piece of the nonprofit's budget because state reimbursement rates have changed little over the past 10 years.

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"The number of people that have moderate incomes that donate is pretty significant," shes aid. "I think there is the potential that if you aren't using it as a tax deduction, we could see some people who will choose not to give anymore," she said.

House and Senate Republicans are negotiating a final tax cut package after proposals recently cleared both the House and Senate. Congressional leaders are hoping to pass the tax cut package by the end of the year. Republicans argue the tax cut package will provide needed relief for middle class families while helping to create more jobs. Democrats have blasted the proposals, saying the big winners are the wealthy and large corporations.

More than two dozen nonprofits flooded reporters' email inboxes Tuesday morning with press releases in opposition to the tax proposals. Groups issuing statements included the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, the National Alliance on Mental Illnesses in Minnesota, the Children's Defense Fund in Minnesota and the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians — just to name a few.

Rebecca Lucero, public policy director for the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, said the group helped organize the mass issuing of statements. Lucero's organization represents more than 2,000 nonprofits. She said the council is deeply concerned that reductions in tax incentives for charitable giving will lead some people to give less.

"The tax bill is a perfect storm of harm to nonprofits," Lucero said.

The council also opposes a proposal in the House tax bill that gets rid of a long-standing ban on nonprofits supporting candidates. That would open the door to anonymous donors giving money to nonprofits for political purposes and receiving a tax break in exchange.

Lucero added, "This fundamentally alters the state of nonprofits in this country to make this move."

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