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(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly members Gordon M. Johnson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Annette Quijano to encourage more online donations to many of the beneficial programs intrinsically linked to New Jersey was recently advanced by a Senate committee.

The bill (A-2727) would provide easy, online access to make donations to the special funds listed on New Jersey’s gross income tax return forms. It was approved 77-0 by the Assembly in February, and released earlier this month by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. The bill still requires final legislative approval from the Senate.

“In this day and age, it’s just common sense to let people donate online and not just on their tax returns,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “If we can provide residents with the knowledge and access to lend a helping hand, I have no doubt that we can increase support for many of New Jersey’s worthwhile programs.”

“We know that New Jerseyans have big hearts and, if given the opportunity, they always rise to the occasion,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “With more and more people filing their taxes online, it’s important that we take advantage of these tools to promote the worthwhile programs near and dear to our state, which are in need of support.”

“People already use the web to shop and pay their bills, so it makes sense to allow them to donate to these worthy causes online,” said Quijano (D-Union). “Online donations are practical, and will go a long way in helping these wonderful programs. New Jerseyans are generous, and I’m certain that given an even simpler way to donate, they will step up to the plate.”

Currently, only the New Jersey Children’s Trust Fund to Prevent Child Abuse, one of a handful of specific tax check-off items listed on New Jersey’s gross income tax return, allows for online donations.

This bill would require the state Division of Taxation to create a separate online donation form for any of the special funds designated under current law, including the NJ Endangered Wildlife Fund, the NJ Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Fund, the NJ Breast Cancer Research Fund, the state’s Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Program, and the U.S.S. New Jersey Educational Museum Fund.

According to a June report from the Giving U SA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, total charitable contributions nationwide declined for the first time since 1987, down 3.6 percent in 2009. It was also just the second decline in contributions since the foundation began publishing annual reports in 1956.

Roughly 50 to 60 percent of organizations that provided data to the Giving USA Foundation reported lower gift receipts in 2009 than in 2008. Hit particularly hard were charities that promote education and the arts, which suffered two consecutive years of decline. They lost 8.8 percent and 8.7 percent of donations, respectively, between 2007 and 2009.