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Non-Profits "Shortchanged" By Specialty License Plate Program

Photo by Texas Department of Transportation
Money forwarded to non-profits through a specialty license plate program would be cut in half under a provision in the recently adopted Texas budget.

Money that non-profits receive from a Texas specialty license plate program will be cut in half unless the legislature takes action, according to a coalition of charities. The diverse group of non-profits includes the anti-abortion group Texas Alliance for Life and the pro-cycling organization BikeTexas.

State lawmakers sought to close a multibillion dollar budget gap for the 2012-13 biennium without raising new taxes, but in doing so, creatively moved around money within state coffers.  The new provision would technically defer payments to non-profits for any plates purchased after September 1, 2011.

“It’s kind of an accounting trick, but it can do a lot of damage to a non-profit organization,” BikeTexas executive director Robin Stallings told KUT News.

Stallings said his organization, for example, would lose about $35,000 of the $70,000 it receives annual from the program.  He said the non-profits market the license plates, which can be optionally purchased by motorists for $30. In previous years, $8 of that money went to the state and county, and $22 was directed to charities.

“It’s potentially a very good partnership with the state, and this is not ever tax revenue,” he said. “This is basically that the non-profits generate for their own cause.”

The Texas Alliance for Life is particularly frustrated, because the legislature in May approved an anti-abortion license plate after the group’s twelve year political fight. The revenues were intended to help accelerate the number of adoptions in Texas.

The groups in the coalition speaking out about this are the American Quarter Horse Association, BikeTexas, Friends of Big Bend, Keep Texas Beautiful, Texas Alliance for Life, and the Texas Humane Legislation Network.  But the change would affect more than 100 non-profit organizations and scholarships for low income students.

They want lawmakers to pass an amendment to Senate Bill 2 that would ensure the state restores about $2.5 million the charities expected to receive through the program.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.