Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Charity Case: State Budget Cuts Threaten to Debilitate-Or Worse, Shut Down-Local LGBT Organizations

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Charity Case: State Budget Cuts Threaten to Debilitate-Or Worse, Shut Down-Local LGBT Organizations

Article excerpt

NOBODY UNDERSTANDS the current fiscal crisis and its effect on state budgets better than John Laird. Until November 20081 Laird was a member of the California state assembly, where he chaired the budget committee. He also chaired the state's LGBT caucus, fiercely defending the various hard-won services funded by the state, such as support and counseling services for LGBT seniors and youths.

But those services could be cut, given the state's budget crisis. California, once facing a fiscal 2009 deficit of $15 billion, now projects a staggering $42 billion shortfall through mid 2010. When Laird spoke to The Advocate in late fall, he was headed to Sacramento to chair the state's first hearing about how it would bridge that gap. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was proposing an equal mix of cuts and new taxes, but hard-line Republicans opposed any new taxes. "And if they don't bend, it will require draconian cuts across the budget, and nothing would be safe." Laird says. "Everything we've done for LGBT services will be on the table."

California's budget woes are extreme, but nonetheless emblematic of similar crises across the nation. Massachusetts, for example, faces a 2009 budget deficit of $3.5 billion, while Illinois is projecting a $4 billion shortfall. As states struggle to balance their budgets, many local organizations fear they may face painful and in some cases life-threatening cuts.

The situation is particularly acute for smaller organizations, which typically lack the diversified funding streams of their larger peers. Grace Sterling Stowell, for instance, executive director of the Boston Alliance for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth, is watching the legislature's budgeting process very carefully, since more than 70% of BAGLY's $750,000 annual budget comes from the state of Massachusetts.

"We're definitely worried," she says. State funding is "so much more significant than all our other sources of funding. If even some of that were to go away, it would be a big blow. If it all went away, there would be no way for us to replace that money." Whereas larger organizations might have the luxury of reallocating funds, or cutting back on expenses, BAGLY can't count on that, Stowell says. "We can't keep cutting back without seriously compromising our work. …

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