Nonprofits push for state funding
by Scott Nicholson
Together NC, a coalition of 120 agencies and groups across the state, delivered a letter to Gov. Beverly Perdue Thursday asking her to put all options on the table, including new revenues, to stem the bleeding that threatens many service groups.
Rob Thompson, executive director of The Covenant With North Carolina's Children and a coordinator of the campaign, said groups had already cut operating costs and administration and that any additional cuts would have to be made in the delivery of services.
"We are real concerned with the different services and functions if we take a cuts-only approach to the state government," Thompson said. "I think she's (Perdue) got a choice to stand up for education, health care and public safety, or she can put us on a path backwards."
State leaders are facing a projected budget shortfall of up to $3.7 billion, and many of the Republican candidates were elected last year on a platform of reduced taxes and smaller government. Thompson acknowledged the political mood didn't favor the creation of new revenue sources, of which taxes are the easiest to impose.
"It's an uphill fight," he said. "We've got a new crowd of legislators and many of them have campaigned on a platform of austerity. But campaign season is over and now these folks have to govern.
"When they sit down with a red pen, they're going to have to look at what their district will be like when they fire all these teachers and cut mental health services and public safety. It's a lot harder for a cuts-only approach when they look at that. There's room for movement, but it's hard to manage a budget with such a serious shortfall without doing serious long-term damage."
Randall Hitt, communications director for the N.C. Center for Non-Profits, said about 200 people representing nonprofits had gathered Wednesday and echoed a common refrain: Private donations are down and any more cuts would be crippling.
"It's definitely challenging out there," Hitt said. "A $3.7 billion shortfall affects a lot of nonprofits, who typically are already under a strain and won't have any options for streamlining other than cutting back on services."
Thompson said the Together NC members didn't directly rely on state funding but would have additional burdens or would see more street-level challenges under a tighter budget.
"A lot of us don't get any money from state government, but we understand the constituents that we advocate for," Thompson said. "We are jeopardizing them if we take a cuts-only approach to the budget. We're working to get as many folks around the different communities to talk with their legislators and we're also going to the governor."
The letter to Perdue also advocated for a reform of the revenue streams to make them "adequate, stable and fair."
"If you think about children who rely on a vast systems of programs and services from nonprofit organizations, such as tutoring and mentoring, they are getting squeezed on both sides," Thompson said of the decline in private donations, "that makes it much harder to keep up with the needs of kids in this state."
The full text of the letter to Perdue is online at http://www.togethernc.org.