CLT Update
Tuesday, July 24, 2001

Voluntary Tax Checkoff is catching on!

Chuck Collins, the program director of United for a Fair Economy, said his group will continue to advocat  for social programs and fight against tax relief but that the checks are coming, like it or not

The Boston Globe
Jul. 24, 2001
Tax statement
Some are using rebate checks to send a message

Just a few months back, Jimmy St. George of TEAM (Tax Everything And More) said of our Voluntary Tax Checkoff bill, "It borders on being an obscene joke." At its hearing before the Taxation Committee state Rep. Doug Peterson (D-Marblehead) attacked it as "tongue in cheek" and "dripping with sarcasm."

That was in April, when it was proposed by CLT. Here we are in July and today rejecting or giving away your tax cut has become a celebrated liberal cause.

We've come a long way in just three short months changing  the hearts and minds of America!

With this liberal campaign in full swing, how can the state Legislature in good conscience deny our proposal.

Our Voluntary Tax Checkoff is in the House budget, but was not included in the Senate's version. Both budgets are now in conference committee to be reconciled.

There is now no reason whatsoever for it to be not included in the final budget. It would make life so much easier for those who do not want or need tax relief -- and apparently there are many.

The Legislature should help them out.

Chip Ford

The Boston Globe
Tuesday, July 24, 2001

Tax statement
Some are using rebate checks to send a message

By Jennifer Medina, Globe Correspondent

Like most people who get financial windfalls, Stephen Pratt smiles at his good fortune. So when President Bush announced that he and millions of other taxpayers would get a $300 income tax refund, Pratt figured that he had lucked into a wide-screen television or a payment on the balance of his Visa bill.

But a $3.98 video rental changed his mind.

After watching the movie "Pay It Forward" -- in which a child tries to change the world by helping three people, then urging them to repay the favor by helping and inspiring three others to do the same -- Pratt decided recently how to spend his tax refund.

Using the movie as a guide, Pratt is urging his friends to sign their tax checks over to charity, then persuade three of their friends to follow suit. He also set up a Web site and is using e-mail to help spread the word.

"I just thought it was amazing that we could do something simple, but so hard," said Pratt, the chief executive of Eureka Communities, a nonprofit company that advises other nonprofits on matters like fund-raising and management.

Most people like him could really use the cash, he said. "It's not easy to just write over the money, but it's taking responsibility to do something."

He's not alone. In recent weeks, dozens of other organizations across the country, from left-wing political groups to churches and charities, have asked people to use the tax refund to do good or to make a political statement. Many are using the Internet to make their pitch.

Though the groups differ on their approach, the common goal is to use the windfall to improve society.

According to a poll in the Christian Science Monitor earlier this month, about 4 percent of Americans plan to donate their rebate to charity. But a study by the Catalogue for Philanthropy last year showed that Massachusetts ranked last in average charitable donations.

The United Church of Christ is calling on its congregants to donate their money to the poor, including drives in Lee, Worcester, and Townsend. Southern New Hampshire Services, a nonprofit agency that coordinates community programs in Hillsborough County, is asking its 250 employees for their rebates.

United for a Fair Economy, a Boston-based national organization, launched its Reject the Rebate Web site last month, and organizers say that nearly 1,000 people have signed a petition protesting the tax refund. Some are even planning to send their money back to the government, making checks payable to the Bureau of Public Debt.

Working Assets, a San Francisco information technology company, is promising to double any donation made to organizations listed on its Web site. Michael Kieschnick, the company's president, said that each of the dozens of options is a progessive group and that the company expects to spend its $1 million matching-fund limit.

Tony Adams, a Web site developer in Houston, is boasting even larger figures on his Web site, Nearly 750 taxpayers have promised to donate more than $250,000, Adams said.

"It's a tremendous opportunity for families where $600 is not that much money," Adams said. "It's a lump sum of money we didn't budget for. There are problems being ignored. This is the chance to speak up."

While he defines himself politically as left of center, Pratt said he doesn't mind if donations go to conservative groups.

Others want to use the refund to make a political statement, loud and clear. The Bush administration "was making choices about our money that we fundamentally oppose," said Kieschnick of Working Assets.

But Dan Ronayne, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said the refund is supposed to put money back into the economy by giving people more cash to spend and stimulate new job creation. Although Ronayne said he applauded the idea of paying it forward, he said he doubted that refund-fueled charity drives and political campaigns would have a lasting impact.

"At least this way people can put the money wherever they best see fit," Ronayne said. "The money will still go into the economy. Charities will not just take the money and let it sit there."

Pratt acknowledged that his campaign may not go far enough to change the world. The real goal, he said, is to get people thinking about others, instead of themselves.

Chuck Collins, the program director of United for a Fair Economy, said his group will continue to advocate for social programs and fight against tax relief but that the checks are coming, like it or not.

"Nobody is saying this money couldn't be useful," Collins said. "But we are going to lose out in the long run if we don't put the money where it is really needed. There is too much poverty to ignore and stick the money in our pockets."

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