If Gov. William Donald Schaefer has his way, Marylanders will have a choice of worthy causes to support financially when they file their taxes each April 15. That is, if there's any money left over after paying federal, state and local income taxes.
Since Maryland's existing tax checkoff for endangered species and the Chesapeake Bay has been a smashing success, raising $3.1 million in three years, the governor wants to expand this voluntary checkoff so taxpayers have three other choices: to help children's programs, to aid crime victims and to assist the arts.
This approach could hurt the on-going "chickadee checkoff." With so many options, taxpayers might ignore the whole thing, especially since this is money paid in addition to taxes owed. Other states' experiences indicate this could well happen.
Maryland's save-the-bay checkoff has provided grants to community groups, non-profit organizations, schools and public agencies working on bay restoration. The money also has paid for habitat protection, public education, research and urban wildlife programs related to endangered species.
Let's not be gripped by checkoff mania. The one optional donation on Maryland's income tax form is working fine. We should leave it alone.