Menendez, Booker Push for Tax Credits for Working Families

U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (left) and Cory Booker.

U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (left) and Cory Booker.

Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez joined leaders from NJ Policy Perspective and the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey on a Monday conference call to discuss benefits for working families they say are at risk. According to the senators and their allies, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) will expire at the end of 2017 if Congress fails to act. They say those expirations will be detrimental to low-income families in the state and will push 480,000 New Jerseyans into poverty.

“Let’s be clear, a vote against these important family credits is a vote to increase the taxes on millions of working families, plain and simple,” said Menendez. “It has been recognized then and now, by Republicans and Democrats, liberal and conservative economists, as one of the most effective public policy tools against poverty, particularly childhood poverty. That’s why we all need to work together to fight for an EITC and CTC that pulls people out of poverty instead of pushing them back in.”

Menendez and others on the call claimed that a lack to renew the credits could mean a loss in $256 million in federal credits, leaving about 435,000 children in 219,000 New Jersey families without them.

According to the senior senator, Congress is currently pursuing tax credits for businesses but said that the Senate “can’t have giveaways to business without taking care of families” through protecting programs like the EITC and CTC.

“The notion that Congress would make business tax breaks permanent without addressing the needs of working families defies common sense,” said NJPP President Gordon MacInnes on the call. “The benefits for working families are shared immediately and locally producing a stronger New Jersey economy. The business tax breaks are of more dubious value.”

Booker also spoke on the call and mentioned that he hoped to come to a compromise with Republican colleagues in the senate in order to keep the provisions in place.

“I am cautiously optimistic that the compromise with Republicans will work,” Booker said. While he did not state exactly what the details were of the compromise, Menendez elaborated when spoke, claiming that at the very minimum there is a hope to fight off the “onerous” integrity provisions that “would keep the most families from getting returns.”

Currently, Booker and Menendez are working to avoid congressional inaction that would allow EITC and CTC to lapse.

Additionally, NJPP and NJAPN are looking to expand the credits to the about 350,000 NJ residents who would be eligible if the credits were available to men and women who do not have children. They also believe the age of eligibility should be lowered to 21.

Today’s conference was the latest instance of a groundswell of support that seems to be building in the Democratic Party demanding improvements for low-income workers. Recently, the fight for a $15 minimum hourly wage has also been making headlines with the lines of Congressman Donald Payne Jr. and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka pledging their support to getting low-income families higher wages. While the provisions Booker and Menendez spoke to don’t directly involve wages in the way the fight for fifteen does, their push also centers on helping families who make little meet basic necessities.

“A vote against these important family credits is a vote to raise taxes,” said Menendez about how the loss of these credits would make life much more difficult for low-income families.

The current situation with the EITC and CTC is indicative of the increasingly partisan divisions as Republicans look to cut the budget where possible and Democrats push back claiming that social programs cannot be cut.