2020 POLICY PRIORITIES
Maryland Nonprofits champions state policies that ensure all citizens can share in a prosperous and inclusive economy. The following policy priorities represent the issues Maryland Nonprofits will stress in our advocacy work for the coming year.
Investment in People and Communities
An economy that works for all Marylanders requires strong and intentional state investment.
Unfortunately, our revenue system and state budgets have failed to provide the true costs of many of these vital and effective services for more than a decade, shortchanging our people and communities. Lack of investment has created barriers to opportunity, especially among low-income people, communities of color, seniors and people living with disabilities.
Raise Revenue with More Fair Tax System: We will work to advance proposals of the Fair Funding Coalition and others to eliminate loopholes and tax breaks that benefit special interests, and correct our upside-down tax code that allows the wealthiest to pay the smallest share of their income in state and local taxes.
Fixing our tax system will support the significant new state investments in education recommended by the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, and provide improved funding for programs including:
- Workforce development
- Care and treatment of people with mental illnesses or physical disabilities
- Programs that empower seniors and youth,
- Vibrant arts and culture,
- Green infrastructure,
- Quality affordable childcare,
- Housing and transportation,
- Safety net services
- Community innovation and more!
Earned Income Tax Credit: State tax and other policies can also do more to directly improve the lives of Maryland’s working families. The Earned Income Tax Credit (“EITC”) is considered by many to be the most effective anti-poverty program for low-income families and individuals. As part of the Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition we will support further improvements of Maryland’s State EITC program in 2020.
Family and Medical Leave: The need to care for new children, other family members with serious health conditions or disabilities, or themselves, often conflicts with employment for the wage earner(s) in working families. Creation of a ‘Family and Medical Leave’ wage replacement insurance program would significantly ease these burdens, and we will join advocates in renewed efforts to have Maryland enact such a program.
Investment in Education, Kirwan Commission: Many of the recommendations of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (or “Kirwan Commission”) have already been enacted and initial funding is in place. But other provisions, and changes to funding formulas involving significant funding commitments by the state and counties, are yet to be approved. The reforms proposed by the Commission are critically important to redress racial biases in our current system, and inequities in educational opportunity and achievement. Uncorrected these are a threat to the social and economic progress of individual communities and the State as a whole. We urge the legislature to act decisively this year and approve the Commission’s recommended reforms.
Safe and Affordable Housing
Securing safe, affordable housing is a challenge for a significant proportion of Maryland households. In recent years housing costs have risen while wages remained stagnant. For most first-time buyers that typical “starter home” is no longer affordable. Additionally, half of all renting households face housing costs that exceed 30% of their income. As with other economic challenges, housing costs most often threaten the safety and well-being of low-income families, seniors and people living with disabilities. To improve fairness, diversity and inclusion in communities across Maryland, we urge the State to fund quality, affordable housing and community investment, pass legislation to prevent discrimination based on government assistance, and ensure fair treatment of tenants in lease disputes.
Expanding Public Transit
The adequacy of transportation services and infrastructure, particularly public transit, has a substantial impact on our economy, as well as on nonprofits and the people they serve. We will support the work of the newly created Task Force to Study Transportation Access, as well as efforts to strengthen the state’s commitment to swift and efficient public transit services across the state. From the Eastern Shore to Western Maryland, people without access to private or public transit in some form are effectively being excluded from opportunities to work, to further their education, to get to the doctor, to access critical social services, and lead fulfilling lives.
Protecting Marylanders' Health and Environment
Maryland has taken significant steps in recent years to expand access to health care through Medicaid and other programs. However, federal policies continue to threaten to roll back these efforts. In addition, excessive costs and price-gouging for prescription medicines remain a threat to the health of many Marylanders. We will support state action to make up for federal cutbacks, and continued efforts to improve the affordability of both generic and name brand pharmaceuticals.
Maryland should also commit to the health and well-being of all its citizens by improving its investment in:
- Programs that promote access to healthy food and exercise,
- Quality treatment options for those with substance use disorders,
- Smoking cessation programs,
- More effective services for those with physical or mental disabilities or illness, and
- Initiatives that ensure people with chronic conditions maintain strong health habits
Protect the Environment and its Impact on Health of Marylanders: The quality of the environment also has a significant impact on the health of our communities and public infrastructure, and environmental hazards often have disproportionate effects on low-income communities and communities of color. We will support of the efforts of the Maryland Public Health Association and others to reduce and eliminate threats to the health of all Maryland communities.
Healthy Climate Initiative: Investing in sustainable development and in growing our “green economy” has great potential for expanding jobs and protecting against both the impact of climate change and the health problems associated with pollution. Green investment promotes tourism and recreation, and preserves the beauty and vitality of our state. We will support the “Healthy Climate Initiative” to reduce carbon emissions, invest in green infrastructure and energy efficient transportation, and protect low- and moderate-income households from costs of the inevitable transition away from fossil-fuel sources of energy.
Maryland Nonprofits will continue to support efforts to assure that the 2020 Census does achieve a “complete count” of all those living in Maryland.
Improving State Grants Process for Nonprofits
We will also continue efforts to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of state grant and contract processes for the delivery of health, education and social services in the coming year. Working with advocates and legislators we will propose steps to start systemic reform grant-making processes across state agencies.
By working together, nonprofits in Maryland are advancing and protecting the public interest of the people and communities we serve. The sector has a long history of advocating to move the needle on public policy issues. Our goal is to build on this rich tradition and broaden and strengthen the sector’s societal influence and impact.
This statement of principles guides Maryland Nonprofits’ public policy activities, its Public Policy Committee, and its staff, in working with policymakers at all levels of government, with the media, and the public. The principles do not prohibit us from engaging on other issues, rather they provide six broad policy goals for the organized nonprofit sector and specific steps that define and advance each goal.
We encourage you, the nonprofit community, to adopt or support these principles in your public policy and advocacy efforts.
Promote Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in the Consideration of Public Policies
Maryland’s future growth, well-being and economic prosperity can only be assured when everyone regardless of age, race, religion, socio-economic background, gender identity, location, or disability, can share in a prosperous and inclusive economy without race-based or other structural barriers that impede them.
Consideration of proposed policies, and review of current policy structures, should include the assessment of their direct and indirect impacts on the health, opportunities and quality of life of all affected individuals and communities.
Advocate for Sufficient Public Investment in our Communities.
The purpose of government is to provide for and promote the general welfare of the people. The nonprofit community, being dedicated to the same goal, should be a leader in advocating policies that recognize and support the importance of appropriate public investment in community programs and services.
- Government budget and fiscal policies must provide sufficient resources to equitably and adequately meet this responsibility.
- Government operations and programs should be responsive, fair, effective, efficient and accountable.
- The system of raising adequate government revenues itself must be efficient and equitable and strive for progressivity.
Strengthen the Role and Participation of the Public in their Government.
The nonprofit sector should promote structures and policies that are conducive to effective public participation in the direction and affairs of government. The process of government must be open and subject to the control of the people and their elected representatives. Free expression is a basic right, but is meaningful only if the peoples’ voice has an effective means to be heard.
- The actions and mechanisms of all branches of government should be transparent and accessible to ensure the public’s involvement and understanding.
- Policy-making should be based on the input and best interests of the public and on decisions by their elected representatives. Traditionally disenfranchised groups must be supported and empowered, and the rights of vulnerable individuals must be protected.
- Elections must be conducted in a manner to promote and permit the fullest possible participation by voters, and to assure confidence that the people’s will rather than limited interests will govern election results and the actions of those elected.
- The public’s engagement with all aspects of government process must be encouraged.
Broaden the Involvement and Increase the Effectiveness of Nonprofits as Advocates for the People and Communities they Serve.
People form and support nonprofit organizations to assist individuals, to improve their communities, and to provide a more effective voice for their concerns in the public policy arena. Advocacy is an important and natural role for nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits are often the most, or only, effective means to educate the public on the actions of government and to voice the peoples’ views and concerns on public issues. Nonprofit advocacy is critical in preserving public confidence in the policy-making process.
- The nonprofit sector and its supporters must encourage greater participation by individual organizations as policy advocates for people and communities.
- The capacity of nonprofits to educate, represent and lead their constituencies on policy issues should be strengthened.
- Nonprofits should educate and encourage the public to participate in policy advocacy through effective nonprofit and community-based efforts.
- Challenges or impediments to the advocacy role of nonprofit organizations must be opposed and overcome at all levels of government.
- The public and the nonprofit community should be effectively represented on appropriate boards, commissions, councils and similar bodies established by government.
Promote and Strengthen the Nonprofit Sector's Relationship with Government.
Nonprofit organizations have traditionally performed a significant role in providing services to the public, complementing government programs or addressing needs not met by government action. Nonprofits also play a major part in implementing government programs or providing services on behalf of government. In addition, the nonprofit sector is a significant and growing force in the state’s overall economy. Nonprofits are responsible for more than 10% of private jobs in Maryland, employing more than 250,000 workers at the end of 2016. Public policies should acknowledge and strengthen this relationship, and recognize the nonprofit sector as an important factor in the state’s economic life.
- State contracting procedures should facilitate and not impede the efficient delivery of government services provided by nonprofits, and should sufficiently fund contracts for services.
- Economic development strategies, including programs to promote business and employment development, should recognize and include the nonprofit sector and the people and communities they represent.
- Tax policies that support and promote the charitable and nonprofit sector in the delivery of services and benefits to the public must be preserved.
- Public policies should protect and promote the integrity of “charitable” and “nonprofit” activities.
Increase Philanthropy and Volunteerism in Maryland.
Public policy should recognize and support the important role of private philanthropy and volunteer service in improving the lives of Maryland citizens and the quality of life in the State.
- Existing incentives for private philanthropy should be preserved.
- New methods to effectively and efficiently promote charitable giving and volunteer service should be examined and implemented.
- Government and the business and nonprofit communities should collaborate in developing effective programs to support philanthropy and volunteerism.
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