On Tuesday, the Joint Finance Committee made slight changes to the Earned Income Tax Credit, a refundable tax credit intended to provide “a special tax benefit for certain working families with at least one qualifying child.” According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, “the earned income tax credit (EITC) is offered at both the federal and state levels as a means of providing assistance to lower-income workers” and is “calculated based on family size, filing status, and the amount of earned income.” State earned income tax credits are a percentage of the federal credit.
The current law provides tax credits in this way:
One Child - 4% - $124
Two Children -14% - $716
Three or More Children - 43% - $2,473
The changes made by the Joint Finance Committee provide tax credits in this way”
One Child - 5% - $155
Two Children - 11% - $562
Three or More Children - 39% - $2,242
According to the Joint Finance Committee and the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, these slight modifications to the Earned Income Tax Credit will save Wisconsin $56.2 million over two years.
According to the IRS and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Wisconsin is the only state of 24 (including the District of Columbia) that provide earned income tax credits based on the number of children. 19 states offer tax credits above 5%, and 16 states offer tax credits above 10%. But no state offers a tax credit over 40% (the District of Columbia is at 40%) as Wisconsin does for families with three or more children.
The reaction by the Left was found in what has become typical hyperbole.
Democrat Assemblywoman Tamara Grigsby called the changes “Robin Hood in reverse,” saying “we have our priorities very, very backwards.” Referencing the actions of the Joint Finance Committee, Grigsby added “we hate poor people.” “We kick them when they’re down. They will never have a chance to thrive.”
Scot Ross of the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now called the changes to the earned income tax credit a $43 million tax hike on the “working poor,” and “just the latest in an endless series of bad choices, power grabs and attacks on working families perpetrated by Gov. Walker and the Republican legislative majority.”
Calling the changes to the Earned Income Tax Credit a “tax hike on the working poor” is deceptive since most of those qualifying for the tax credit are not paying any taxes at all. Since the tax credit is refundable, it comes to most in the form of a check from the state. So the state is simply paying certain low-income families less.
The Joint Finance Committee made common sense changes to the tax credit to bring it more in line with other states, while still providing assistance for low-income families.
It is hardly “Robin Hood in reverse.”