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Checkoff for MS

Published (2/11/2011)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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It may be a good cause, but should good causes use the state’s tax form as a conduit for fundraising?

Rep. Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud) raised the question Feb. 8 as the House Taxes Committee discussed HF108, sponsored by Rep. Mike Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park).

The bill, held over for possible omnibus bill inclusion, would give taxpayers the chance to make a contribution to the Minnesota Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society through a checkoff on their state income tax form.

Karen Dobson, who brought the idea to Nelson, has MS and said the money raised would be used for research and providing service and financial assistance to those with MS. While some other states provide the checkoff, she isn’t hopeful that Minnesota would join those numbers this year.

“I was told it is highly unlikely the committee would agree to this. But, I decided, ‘Why not?’ We already have the checkoff for conservation,” she said.

The current “chickadee checkoff” as it’s known, raises money for Department of Natural Resources’ wildlife preservation efforts. That precedent annually spawns requests to the Legislature from various organizations for a checkoff.

“Where does this go? Do we end up with two or three more pages on the tax form?” Gottwalt asked.

Nelson said this bill would provide for an annual appropriation to the state for administering the checkoff, which could cost around $88,000.

According to the Revenue Department, in 2009, about 60,500 state taxpayers contributed to the nongame wildlife fund via the income tax return. If the MS checkoff were made available, it is assumed that 15,000 Minnesotans would donate an average of $12 for a total of $180,000 in tax year 2011.

The bill has no Senate companion.

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