Many charitable groups, including the United Way, are concerned about a budget bill (H.B. 1) provision that would allow state departments to form nonprofit groups of their own and increase the competition for decreasing amounts of donations. Inserted into the bill by the House at the request of Governor Strickland, the proposal intends to provide state government additional avenues for raising money in a time of lower tax revenue and other economic pressures. According to the Governor, “what we decided to do was to give citizens the opportunity to contribute to a nonprofit entity that would enable them to support something that they thought was a worthy cause that we simply did not have sufficient state revenue to support.”
Nevertheless, the Ohio United Way is one of several charitable groups that do not support the plan, and it has asked that the proposal be removed from the bill. According to a statement on the United Way’s website, “while there may be some legitimate and fairly narrow purposes that would be served by allowing governmental entities to form nonprofit corporations and solicit financial contributions and in-kind donations, the broad language included in H.B. 1 goes beyond efforts to simply support the fulfillment of specific targeted goals and responsibilities of the respective departments.” The United Way is concerned agency nonprofits would be in direct competition with charitable organizations for limited resources and programs, there would be a loss of limited philanthropic resources from the genuine needs of individual communities, and the proposal would cause confusion among potential donors.
However, according to Strickland spokeswoman Amanda Wurst, the proposal does not intend to “create a competitive environment” between the state and charitable nonprofit groups, and the administration would be working with the groups and the legislature moving forward to address any concerns. The governor cited the example of state parks as a cause having the potential to attract state donations.
The Strickland Administration has put the issue before the Ohio Ethics Commission and stated that the nonprofit arms would not be used to shield information from the public. “We laid out exactly what the proposal was and the ethics committee signed onto our plan. Any resources that were collected would be very transparent . . . all contributors would be reported in a very public and transparent way and the resources would be audited and no resources could be either accepted or expended into that account without the director’s OK.” The Governor said he expected some criticism over the plan, but he was confident that there are sufficient safeguards built into what they would be doing to prevent any conflict of interest or mischief when it comes to the use of the resources.