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Endow Ohio: What Comes Next?

Monday, April 28, 2014
One year ago Philanthropy Ohio embarked on an initiative to create a tax incentive in Ohio law encouraging people to donate to permanent endowments at their local community foundations. The bill has already passed the Ohio House of Representatives by an overwhelming margin, 84 -9. We caught up with Claudia Herrold, Senior Vice President of Communications and Public Policy at Philanthropy Ohio to find out more about the initiative's origins and what's ahead for this bill this year.
What is the Endow Ohio tax credit?
The Endow Ohio tax credit would create a credit taken on state income taxes for gifts to permanent endowments at eligible community foundations. Each year the state would make available a $20 million pool for the credits, which are capped at $10,000 for an individual filer and $20,000 for joint filers. Those making gifts under $1,000 receive a larger incentive to give, with a 50% credit; those making gifts over $1,000 receive a 20% credit. The bill – if passed – would sunset in 2019.
How did this initiative come about?
The initiative began in a community foundations committee discussion a couple of years ago, after election of a governor intent on reducing income taxes in Ohio. Last spring – just a year ago – one community foundation leader mentioned the concept to her state senator who suggested we try to include it in the budget bill. We sprang into action and while it did not get into the budget bill last year, we continued with a stand-alone bill that passed the House in March and is now in the Senate. We have hopes of including it in this year’s mid-biennium budget bill or having it pass on its own. 
What role did Philanthropy Ohio play in organizing support for the bill?
We have a task force of 5 community foundation leaders; we worked with the bill sponsors to get the bill drafted; hire and supervise two contract lobbyists; raised over $50,000 to support the work; organize and manage weekly calls of the task force; recruit and prep community foundation leaders to attend and testify at hearings and to take meetings with their legislators; scheduled all those meetings; draft and send letters about the bill to legislators and community foundations; testified at hearings (one with questions for an hour and a half!). In addition to my time, Susan Beaudry and Suzanne T. Allen have been intimately engaged in the work – it’s been very time intensive. 
What comes next?
We’ll do hearings in the Senate Finance Committee in May and are working with General Assembly leadership to see if the bill gets included in the budget bill. It had wonderful support in the House, passing 84 to 9, with Democrats’ amendments adopted into the bill. We are hopeful but realize we have obstacles to overcome, including the governor’s goal of reducing the overall tax rate for all Ohioans. We don’t currently have any incentive for charitable giving, so it’s still about educating legislators and the governor about the role of community foundations and the importance of endowments. 
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