As the executive director of a foundation, I spend a lot of time thinking about the appropriate role that foundation funding has to play in supporting strong, vibrant communities. But as April 15th: Tax Day approaches and I began the familiar and gut wrenching task of pulling together all the financial information that documents my past year, I’ve found myself thinking more about the role that government funding can and does play in the community.
Our taxes pay for so much of what I believe in.I believe in safety nets and social services that allow folks to weather sudden downturns, that ensure food, shelter, and public safety are available to bridge those gaps in life.I believe in quality public education, public health, and public infrastructure that builds our roads and brings water to our homes.And I believe that we should all pay our fair share for the common good.
So, why is Tax Day such a challenging day? Is it because we spend trillions on war yet we are cutting benefits and services to veterans? Is it because the state of Oregon spends more on prisons than it does on higher education? Is it because I see people in my community going without: without jobs, without appropriate healthcare, without decent housing, and without the opportunities we all need to thrive?
Yes – it is because of all of these things and many others. But, as I’ve moved through our first few weeks of spring, my thoughts are often on revitalization and renewal.I find myself considering how much better I’d feel if I could have a say in where our tax money goes; to know that it’s supporting change for the better.
I’d move my tax dollars to community based empowerment.I believe that the ‘power of the people’ can prevail. I believe that those who are most impacted by oppression and injustice have the wealth of expertise, lived experience, and resident knowledge to build bridges across issues that push us all toward real social justice and lasting change.
I’d insist that my tax dollars provide real support and encouragement to those who are arriving on our shores, crossing our borders and seeking what all immigrants to America want, whether recent or long ago: an end to persecution for their beliefs, a place of hope for their children, a chance to build economic security, and to realize their dreams of safe, healthy communities and strong families.
I’d gladly be taxed to support just and equitable distribution of the money collected from folks like me every year.I’d agree to see my money spent to support those who juggle two jobs to achieve one job’s salary, who till the soil, sweep floors, who clean up.To provide fair wages, safe working conditions, employment training and job security.
There are groups out there doing this work; models of the types of projects I’d be pleased to have my taxes support. Groups like Project REconomy that has taken up the foreclosure challenge, educating neighbors to know their rights, demanding actions that reverse the losses of housing, and holding accountable those institutions that have destroyed communities and been shielded from justice.
Groups like Partnership for Safety and Justice that is advocating for a smart, effective, and fiscally-responsible approach to public safety. An approach that invests in programs that are proven to reduce crime, curbs the unsustainable growth of our prison system, and strengthens support systems and services for people harmed by crime.
Groups like Umatilla Morrow Alternatives an all volunteer group based in Hermiston that is running local LGBTQ support services, fighting racial profiling by police, and providing direct services to homeless people and HIV+ and at-risk individuals.
I’d love to look forward to April 15, not with dread but rather with anticipation of the opportunity to invest my earnings in a new people’s agenda; one that promotes a more bountiful Oregon for each of us; where the zestful, joyful, vital state we seek is within our reach. What would you look forward to?