State Funding Threatens Community Groups
APRIL 01, 1989 by ROBERT J. SCHIMENZ
Mr. Schimenz, a graduate student at Long Island University. is vice president of Island Trees Little League in New York.
Your local Little League may be on the dole. And it is not alone. Other youth baseball, football, and soccer leagues, police athletic clubs, senior citizen groups, and similar community-based volunteer organizations are on the receiving end of “member items”—state budget items in which elected officials are allotted funds to dole out to community organizations in their districts.
Community groups tend to have tight budgets, and their leaders are usually very frugal with their organizations’ funds. The appeal of the state offering thousands of dollars, for the completion of a few simple forms, has been too much for most groups to resist.
If you question the legitimacy of state funding, you will likely hear one of two answers. The first response, typically from an organization member who senses something is askew, is that the money has already been allotted, and some group is going to get it anyway.
This response ignores the long-term consequences of state funding. The ease of collecting funds by using the state as a governmental United Way will lead to an increased demand for state support. This increased demand will put upward pressure on state budgets, translating into higher taxes. In the long run, we all pay.
The second response, generally heard from legislators, is that the state is always spending tax dollars on “bad” or “poor” people and it is only fair that we give some money to “good” middle class people and theft activities. But because the bulk of the tax burden rests on the shoulders of the middle class, where is the gain? And because there is the cost of an added bureaucracy to collect and distribute the funds, the community suffers a net loss.
Forcing the general public to collectively support community organizations, no matter how worthy they may be, does long-term economic harm. Taxpayers are hurt by having less money to spend, and community organizations are hurt because they ultimately become dependent upon the state, where decisions are based on politics, not on merit.
The worth of community organizations is not at issue here. Worth is based on value and need. If people believe an organization is worthwhile, they will voluntarily donate their time or money. Businessmen will donate voluntarily, with an eye on theft company’s reputation. This is especially true for youth sports groups, where local businessmen often act as sponsors.
But with state funding, the worth of an organization is decided by political processes, not by individual choices. More than our money, state funding takes away our freedom of choice.