Nonprofit news roundup for Feb. 26, 2009

Obama proposes new taxes to fund health-care expansion

President Barack Obama is set to propose $634 billion in new taxes on upper-income Americans and cuts in government spending over the next 10 years to pay for health-care expansion, The Wall Street Journal reported Feb. 26 (see tax story). The tax increases alone would raise an estimated $318 billion over the next decade by cutting down on mortgage and charitable deductions for the wealthiest Americans. The budget plan also would extend tax cuts for the middle class and working poor.

Nonprofit campaign spending takes downturn in 2008

Nonprofits spent more than $400 million last year to influence voters in the presidential election, down from $486 million in 2004, says an analysis by the Campaign Finance Institute, CQ Politics reported Feb. 25. However, 501(c) groups, including business coalitions, spent nearly $196 million in 2008, more than triple the estimated $60 million they spent in 2004. The top three spenders were the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with $36.4 million, Freedom’s Watch with nearly $30.2 million and Employee Freedom Action Committee with $20 million.

Former governor joins forces with Gates Foundation

Former North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley plans to work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as a paid consultant on educational issues, the Associated Press reported Feb. 25. Easley, who left office last month after eight years as governor, aims to expand his Learn and Earn program, which allows students to earn a high-school diploma and college credit simultaneously, or take technology classes. The program received an Innovations in American Government Award last year from the government school at Harvard University.

Philadelphia art museum cuts staff, plans to raise admission

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is postponing exhibitions and laying off staff after losing at least $90 million of its endowment, which stood at $346 million last July, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Feb. 25. The cuts are part of an effort to reduce the museum’s operating budget by about $1.7 million for the fiscal year ending June 30. Pending city approval, the museum also plans to raise admission in July by an undetermined amount.

UNC nursing school receives grant for safety education

The nursing school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is set to receive $1.8 million of a $4.25 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Triangle Business Journal reported Feb. 25 (see nursing story). The school plans to devote the funds to a program that aims to educate nurses on safety and quality issues. The remaining $2.45 million from the grant will go to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

Helmsley’s billions not just for dogs, judge rules

The billions of dollars left in a charitable trust by hotel magnate Leona Helmsley do not have to be spent solely on the welfare of dogs, a judge ruled, The New York Times reported Feb. 25 (see dog story). Going against Helmsley’s wishes, the judge said trustees may distribute funds to whichever charitable purposes they choose. Helmsley, who died in 2007, raised eyebrows when she devoted her entire estate to canine care and named her Maltese, Trouble, her biggest beneficiary.

In Brief:

* As Long Island school districts lose state funding, parents and local community groups are stepping up to the plate, creating foundations to fund axed or endangered programs, The New York Times reported Feb. 25. But the move has alarmed some education officials, who say that relying on unstable sources of funding can leave school districts too vulnerable.

* Hawaii nonprofits, faced with state funding cuts and dismal donations, are asking state lawmakers for help in securing shares of the federal economic-stimulus package, The Honolulu Advertiser reported Feb. 26.

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