MOORLACH UPDATE — Check-Off — December 9, 2015

What if you made a contribution and the middleman didn’t forward it? Today, I travel to Los Angeles for a Governance and Finance Committee hearing on the California Form 540 check-off opportunities. The LA Daily News provides the details in its editorial below.

BONUS: Watch me on an edition of Inside OC with Rick Reiff

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Get tax-form charity to the intended recipients

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By The Editorial Board, LA Daily News

 Many Californians are generous with their donations to charity — in many cases even while they’re paying their taxes. The last thing that should happen to that generosity is for it to go to waste.

But that’s what has gone on with much of the money taxpayers have donated through those check-off boxes on the state Franchise Tax Board’s income tax forms — intending their money to go to worthy causes from efforts to cure Alzheimer’s disease to sea otters to victims of human trafficking. Most of their donations have reached the intended recipients, but too much of the money has not.

review by the Associated Press found that $10 million out of the $35 million collected over 10 years for 29 charitable funds went unspent.

This isn’t a scandal that involves embezzlement or deliberate misuse of public funds. It stems from good intentions but bad follow-through, from poorly thought-out and executed government processes, from the left hand not knowing what the right hand has.

Sen. Bob Hertzberg, the Van Nuys Democrat who chairs the state Senate Committee on Government and Finance, is convening a hearing Wednesday in Los Angeles to find out what’s gone wrong and to figure out how to make it work right.

The AP investigation found that funds earmarked for existing programs, such as senior center funding from the state Department of Aging, are successfully distributed. But in some cases distribution is left up to state agencies that don’t know what to do.

State agencies used less than half the contributions available in a dozen of the check-off funds. AP cited one fund, for colorectal cancer screenings, that raised $237,000 — none of which was spent. The fund “fell through the cracks with a 2007 reorganization of state health agencies,” AP reported.

Hertzberg and Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, have called witnesses from the Franchise Tax Board, the controller’s office, the departments of Education and Public Health, and nonprofits that have used check-offs successfully and others that have run into bureaucratic obstacles.

Good for them. This problem should be easy to fix once all those people put their heads together.

State government should have figured out there was an issue here. At least we can give Sacramento credit for reacting after AP found the problem.

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