September 28, 2020

Monday, September 28, 2020

MI House Passes Charitable Tax Credit Legislation 

The Michigan House has passed two bills aimed at restoring charitable tax credits for contributions made to endowed funds at Michigan community foundations and for contributions to food banks and homeless shelters.

CMF has been advocating for the restoration of these tax credits since they were eliminated as part of tax reform in 2012. Over the years CMF members have testified, submitted written statements and made calls to their lawmakers in support of restoring the charitable tax credits. Prior to the vote last week CMF sent a letter to Michigan House members highlighting the importance of these tax credits and asking for their support.

Before its repeal, the Michigan charitable tax credit had a long history of incentivizing giving, especially for first-time individuals and businesses. The loss of the tax credit led to a decline in giving. A study by the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University found that from 2011 through 2013, there was a 44% decline in $200 donations and a 37.5% decline in first-time donors at the $200 level during the same time period.

Representative Ryan Berman, sponsor of the community foundation tax credit legislation (House Bill 4993), citied the CMF-commissioned research from the Johnson Center in outlining out why lawmaker support for the bill was necessary.

The bills passed by the House:

  • House Bill 4993 would allow a taxpayer to claim an income tax credit equal to 50% of the amount the taxpayer contributed during the tax year to the endowment fund of a community foundation. The credit could not exceed $100 for a single filer or $200 for a joint return.

  • House Bill 6162 would allow a taxpayer to claim an income tax credit equal to 50% of the amount the taxpayer contributed to a food bank or homeless shelter. The credit could not exceed $100 for a single filer or $200 for a joint return.

The bills have been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.

CMF’s Government Relations and Public Policy team will be continuing advocacy work on these bills and is available to support CMF members in their outreach to the finance committee, encouraging the legislation to advance for a vote. Community foundations can engage in direct lobbying on this issue and CMF encourages them to connect with their senators. Community foundations interested in sample language and information to support your outreach are invited to email Regina Bell, director of government relations and public policy.



Key Environmental Issue to Appear on November Ballot

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF), a restricted fund that supports land conservation and outdoor recreation, is the focus of a ballot proposal on November 3.

Since its establishment in 1976, MNRTF has provided over $1.2 billion in funding for projects across every county in Michigan. Many of the MNRTF projects have been further supported by CMF members and generate economic, quality of life and public health benefits through environmental conservation and development.

Proposal 1 would change how funds for parks and recreation could be spent from the MNRTF and the State Parks Endowment Fund (SPEF), and lift restrictions on the endowment fund, allowing MNRTF funding to be allocated to renovate and redevelop land for projects. This will appear as Proposal 1 on the ballot for the general election in November.

According to the Secretary of State’s office, if passed Proposal 1 would:

  • Allow the State Parks Endowment Fund to continue collecting revenue from oil and gas sales on state-owned land for creating, improving and maintaining state parks, capping its total balance at $800 million.

  • Require additional oil and gas revenue to go towards the MNRTF.

  • Require at least 20% of State Parks Endowment Fund spending to be spent on improving state parks.

  • Require at least 25% of MNRTF spending to go towards state parks and recreation areas, with an additional 25% allocated for land conservation.

The MNRTF has helped to fund hundreds of parks, community beaches and other natural recreational areas across the state. The fund was originally capped at $500 million. If Proposal 1 passes, the cap will be increased by $300 million to help continue this work.

"Protecting our land, water and parks is critical to the prosperity of Michigan and its citizens, and we've felt the value of these assets, especially during COVID-19 with many Michiganders taking to the outdoors for their health and mental wellbeing," Nick Occhipinti, government affairs director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters told Gongwer. "Investing in Michigan's natural areas is already critical for so many Michigan residents who access these public spaces, and it will only be more so as Michigan responds to climate change going forward."

Many CMF members have contributed additional funds to support MNRTF projects.

In St. Clair County, the MNRTF collaborated with county government and the Community Foundation of St. Clair County to develop the Blue Water River Walk, creating a trail, outdoor classrooms, art displays and more. The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation partnered with the MNRTF and Washtenaw County officials to develop a 7.8-acre parcel of land off of M-52 as part of the Huron Waterloo Pathways Initiative.

Due to the intersections and partnerships between Michigan philanthropy and MNRTF projects, CMF’s Green and Blue Network (GBN) is hosting “A CMF Member Conversation on the Michigan Natural Resource Trust Fund,” a free virtual conversation this Wednesday, September 30 for CMF members to learn more about the MNRTF and the ballot proposal. The event will include stories from your peers on the impact they have seen in their community and guidance on how you can consider elevating awareness on the issues in your community.

Want more?

Learn more about the MNRTF and Proposal 1.

Learn more about the Green and Blue Network and register for its September 30 virtual conversation.

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