In the past week lawmakers in Connecticut and Maryland have taken steps to strengthen their state Earned Income Tax Credit. And by strengthened, we’re talking increasing the state’s EITC from 25% to 28% of the federal EITC. Meanwhile, North Carolina prepares to enter a legislative short session next week where lawmakers can boast to the claim of being the only state in the nation to eliminate the EITC in nearly 30 years.
North Carolina’s state EITC was a modest boost (starting at only 3.5% of the federal EITC in its inaugural year in 2007 and topping out at 5%) , but no doubt provided an extra couple hundred dollars in the pockets of working poor families to help pay the bills and put food on the table. On the whole, working families in all 100 counties of North Carolina infused over $100 million into the state’s economy in 2012 by spending their EITC to meet immediate needs.
Further, the EITC is one of the most effective child anti-poverty tools in the nation, with the federal EITC alone lifting almost 300,000 North Carolinians out of poverty, half of them children. Paired with a strong state EITC, families who work hard and yet still struggle to get by in difficult times can have the extra boost they need at tax time to make a needed car repair so they can get to work reliably, or pay a utility bill to keep the power on.
Many states recognize the value of a strong state EITC to help provide working families a hand up. Connecticut and Maryland are not alone in providing a state EITC more generous than NC’s ever was. States like Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York. . . the list goes on. . . all provide state EITC’s from 10-30% of the federal EITC. North Carolina has unfortunately moved in the opposite direction by first decreasing its state EITC from 5% down to 4.5% of the federal credit and then eliminating it all together.
Legislators should listen to the voices of over 900,000 working families in North Carolina who benefited from the state EITC last year, and the many thousands more who understand the importance of this tool to help our families and communities. North Carolina lawmakers have an opportunity this summer to reinstate the state EITC without any interruption in this vital lifeline for over 1.1 million children. In a time when poverty is still high and times are still hard for many North Carolina families, legislators should make the reinstatement of the EITC a priority.