NTU Awards Nine Grants to State, Local Tax Watchdog Groups

Published October 8, 2008

The National Taxpayers Union (NTU) has begun a program to help launch nine state- and local-level taxpayer groups, from Florida to New Hampshire and points in between, by recently awarding thousands of dollars in grants.

NTU initiated its “Standing Together” Taxpayer Grant Program in January. Grant recipients already have made great strides this year—from defeating tax hikes in Louisiana to gaining visibility at community events.

Already Paying Dividends

“Taxpayers are already seeing dividends from the good work of these new groups,” NTU Director of Government Affairs Kristina Rasmussen said.

“Our friends with the Taxpayers Union of Louisiana (TULA) were instrumental in stopping a legislative pay hike and passing income tax cuts,” Rasmussen continued. “The Florida Taxpayers Union has been spreading the message via radio shows about its five-point plan for economic freedom, which includes a taxpayer protection amendment that puts meaningful revenue caps on state and local governments. The good folks at the Missouri Liberty Coalition have put up banners warning residents about tax hike proposals currently under consideration, and local politicians are taking notice.”

The groups are among five state-level taxpayer advocacy organizations and four local ones established with the help of the Standing Together program.

The other state organizations are Kentucky Taxpayers United and Mississippi Forward. Local-level groups are the Bay County Taxpayers Association (Michigan), Clarke County Taxpayers and Property Owners Association (Georgia), Edenville’s Concerned Citizens (Michigan), and Raymond Taxpayers Association (New Hampshire).

Started Fast

TULA Founder John Roberts said after a short period of organizing and recruiting, his group hit the ground running when a $28 million legislative pay-raise issue came up in June.

“We were able to pick that up and cause a pretty big stir,” Roberts said. “We got a lot of publicity with some of the recall efforts.”

TULA spearheaded recall petitions against Louisiana House Speaker Jim Tucker (R-Jefferson and Orleans Parishes) and other state lawmakers. The group also conducted a poll among residents in Tucker’s district, which found 82 percent disapproved of the salary increase and 59 percent supported the recall petition.

No Shortage of Work

In addition to financial assistance for startup costs, NTU staff provide grant recipients support and consultation on everything from publication design to ballot measure drafting. With goals such as fighting skyrocketing property taxes, promoting government spending transparency, and enacting tax and expenditure limitations, there’s no shortage of work for these groups to tackle.

The Florida Taxpayers Union and NTU sent a joint letter to the state legislature in April urging lawmakers to place a constitutional amendment for a 1.35 percent property tax cap on the November ballot. The measure failed to pass the state Senate, but John Hallman, the group’s vice president of government relations, counts the effort as a success.

“We did have a victory—we passed legislation through the House,” Hallman said. “We had a big grassroots effort, we did a lot of work on it, and we were able to get it through the House through our efforts.”

Since then, an unrelated group of citizens has taken up an initiative to place the measure on the 2010 ballot.

While Hallman said property tax issues are the Florida Taxpayers Union’s “number one biggest fight,” he said his group would like to promote a Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) or other tax and spending limitation plan for the state through policy analysis and other educational outreach.

Busy at Local Level

Grant recipients have been busy at the local level as well.

The Missouri Liberty Coalition displayed banners during a July 4 parade in Springfield, urging city residents to vote against extension of a transportation sales tax. The Raymond (New Hampshire) Taxpayers Association hosted a booth at its town fair and plans to host a “candidate night” on a local cable TV station where contenders for office can discuss their platforms and answer voters’ questions.

“We’ll get a chance to educate the taxpayers in Raymond,” said Peter Buckingham, the group’s chairman.

Still other grant recipients are focused on recruitment and start-up tasks, such as creating a Web site.

“Naturally, we set high standards for our grant recipients,” Rasmussen noted. “Each group must show progress on certain tasks—like filing for 501(c)(4) status or putting up a Web site—to receive the full grant amount.”

‘Many States Could Benefit’

Grant recipients also receive a copy of NTU’s official guide, “Standing Together: How to Form a State or Local Taxpayer Group,” a one-time complimentary use of NTU’s mailing list in their area, and one free registration to the 2009 National Taxpayers Conference sponsored by NTU’s research and educational affiliate.

The program is an ongoing project, and NTU accepts applications on a rolling basis.

“Many states could benefit from the presence of a strong taxpayer group in their area, and we’re focused on helping new groups get underway in Ohio and Illinois, among others,” Rasmussen said.

Natasha Altamirano ([email protected]) is communications manager for the National Taxpayers Union, a nonpartisan citizen group working for lower taxes and smaller government at all levels.

For more information …

For more information about NTU’s “Standing Together” Taxpayer Grant Program: http://www.ntu.org

To contact grant recipients: http://www.ntu.org/main/groups.php