Vote No on Ballot Issue 1B, donate your own money

The Longmont Times-Call published the following article of mine in the print edition last Friday.

Voters should oppose Ballot Issue 1B, the “Worthy Cause” tax –no matter how worthy the causes are.  The sales tax for Boulder County non-profits is wrong and should end. It’s wrong for the taxpayers forced to “donate.” It’s wrong for a community that benefits from a marketplace of accountable and effective charities. And it’s wrong for the very people these organizations are supposed to help.


Giving to a charity can be virtuous.  It’s a form of self-expression that promotes your values. Donors can feel pride and integrity by taking action to support causes important to them.  But the Worthy Cause tax forces taxpayers to donate to charities — that other people choose.  There’s no virtue or compassion in taking someone’s money by force, even if you donate it to charity.  That’s the essence of Ballot Issue 1B.  If you don’t comply with authorities by donating to the charities they choose, you can end up behind bars.

Ballot Issue 1B is unfair.  Every dollar you’re forced to donate to politically-favored charities is one less dollar for other charities that must earn your donation.  Compare such voluntary fundraising with the political fundraising by “Citizens for a Worthy Cause,” who have spent thousands of dollars promoting Issue 1B so government can collect mandatory “donations.”  These aren’t “citizens,” but the very charities that have received or could receive the Worthy Cause tax revenue.  Just as we object when businesses use government to gain unfair advantage over their competitors, we should also object when non-profits do the same.

While we do not often think of charities competing in a marketplace, it’s essential for ensuring that non-profits are accountable. Donors want their donations put to good use.  There’s no such accountability when government officials choose which non-profits receive your money. The organizations get your money regardless of whether you think they’re doing a good job.  Hence the disengaged attitude of “I guess the government’s taking care of it.”  By empowering government, you disempower yourself.

Paraphrasing LendingTree, “when charities compete, we all win.”  Diligent donors use on-line resources like CharityNavigator or GuideStar, which evaluate charities’ performance.  GuideStar explains how we win:

donors seek out and compare charities, monitor their performances, and give with greater confidence; nonprofit organizations pursue more effective operating practices, embrace greater accountability, and enjoy lower fund-raising costs; and society benefits from a more efficient, generous and well-targeted allocation of resources to the nonprofit sector.

Supporters of the tax claim that the non-profits couldn’t raise the money without it.  But what if, instead of voting for 1B, the majority required to approve it donated their own money?

This year’s Boulder County Budget includes $3.5 million in the “Worthy Cause Fund.”   Assuming the same voter turnout as the 2004 election, 1B needs about 80,000 votes to pass.  That’s a $43 donation per “Yes” vote.  And it’s tax-deductible, so it’s more like $30.

Are we so two-faced in the voting booth?  Would a majority vote to force others to donate to charities that they wouldn’t support themselves?  Is that the Boulder County you want?

If you plan to vote for 1B, realize that it forces your neighbors to donate to charity.  Instead, donate your own money and encourage others to do the same.  I’ve made it easy: Go to http://www.wakalix.com and click on the “voluntary donations” link on the right side.  You’ll see a list of charities with links to their donation web pages.

Decide for yourself which causes are worthy, and donate your own dollars.  And remember, your neighbors’ dollars are not yours to give. Vote No on Ballot Issue 1B.

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