Creating positive change through the Missouri legislature.

As a legislator, I believe the government should focus on three things: roads, schools, and public safety. However, the reality is that we legislators have the ability to affect positive change in other areas of our society. While I think charitable work should mainly be done by religious and charitable organizations, there are always opportunities in the legislature to help nonprofit organizations make Missouri a better place.

I was asked, “How do you choose what nonprofits to help fund?” First, there are many different types of nonprofit organizations. Most people immediately think of charities or foundations, but trade unions, advocacy groups, and even social and fraternal organizations can qualify as nonprofits. We limit nonprofit funding to charitable organizations, typically through the budget process in the form of grants or tax credits.

So, how do we choose which organizations get funding? Like most other budget decisions, we focus mainly on who is in need of the funding and what benefits the grants will bring. Our focus is typically on education, especially for high-need children. For example, we provided substantial funding for the Special Learning Center here in Jefferson City. If you’re not familiar with the center, it provides assistance to children with disabilities from birth into their teens, and serves 22 Mid-Missouri school districts. As public education is one of the core functions of government, the Special Learning Center is exactly the kind of nonprofit we try to help fund.

The legislature focused on helping early childhood education in the 2022 budget, appropriating $450 million for our Office of Childhood, which concentrates on early education and access to quality childcare for our youngest citizens. Programs such as Parents as Teachers, Early Head Start, Safe Cribs for Missouri, and Child Care Health Consultation are all designed to make sure that parents in this state have the resources and education they need to ensure our kids will have early life success and health.

We also encourage charitable giving through the use of tax credits, which allow donors to receive a partial tax rebate for charitable giving. A program that makes use of this is the Capitol Complex tax credit, a program that I sponsored the legislation for last year. It allows tax credits to be issued to donors who give money to preserve historic buildings in the Missouri Capitol Complex or for the donation of artifacts to be displayed in the Missouri State Capitol and surrounding buildings.

Another great tax credit program is the Special NeedsAdoption tax credit. This is a one-time credit of up to $10,000 given to help off set some costs for Missouri parents adopting a special needs child in the state. A lot of our programs like this are aimed at helping people who can’t help themselves. There is a tax credit to help small businesses make their facilities accessible to people with disabilities. One of our tax credit programs rewards people who donate to domestic violence and crisis shelters. There is a tax credit for giving young people opportunities in community engagement and discouraging them from violent or criminal behavior. One credit is for donating to agencies that help children in crisis and another credit is for donating to organizations like Capital City CASA or Missouri Network of Child Advocacy. Ultimately, these programs recognize the importance ofour citizens helping one another.

Giving is the responsibility of individual citizens, butI think we, in the legislature, have a duty to encourage people to give. We also have a duty to help people who simply can’t help themselves. Through these programs, we are working to make Missouri a better place for kids and the disabled, and in doing so, I believe it makes our state better as a whole. If you or anyone you know is interested in these programs, please contact my office for more information.

Senator Mike Bernskoetter took office in 2019, serving the 6th Senatorial District. He also serves as a lector, Eucharistic, and hospitality minister atImmaculate Conception Parish.