“What does the Catholic Church care about taxes?” This was a question asked back in 1998 when I first gave testimony to a House tax committee in support of a state refundable Earned Income Tax Credit.
To the editor:
"What does the Catholic Church care about taxes?" This was a question asked back in 1998 when I first gave testimony to a House tax committee in support of a state refundable Earned Income Tax Credit. At that time, I was on the staff of the Kansas Catholic Conference. I smiled.
As a Sister of Charity of Leavenworth, my life's service has been orientated toward walking with persons in poverty. This walk often leads me to see the basic lack of fairness that encompasses the lives of the poor. So why do the Catholic Church and the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth care about taxes? Tax policy impacts persons who are in poverty. Our new Pope Francis spoke clearly in the first days of his papacy, "We must take care of the poor."
Back in 1998 when Kansas was the land of milk and honey and the economy was booming across the nation, the Kansas Legislature spent an entire session hammering out a tax bill with a price tag of $252 million. Gov. Graves touted the bill's inherent fairness. It slashed, he explained, taxes across a broad spectrum: business, income, sales, inheritance, and it slashed taxes for low-income working parents. This portion of the bill was the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit, or the EITC as it is known.
So we come to 2013. The Kansas Legislature is again working on tax and budget issues. Gov. Brownback did not propose any change to the current EITC policy. This fits with his "roadmap" that embraces the reduction of childhood poverty. Current studies of the federal EITC have shown that the EITC lifts more children out of poverty than any other federal policy. In fact, after the controversial 2012 tax-reduction package was passed, both the governor and Secretary of Revenue Nick Jordan noted the continuance of the State's EITC for low-income workers.
Now late in the session, Sen. Jeff King of Independence has introduced a bill that would cut the EITC from 17 percent to 9 percent.
Persons receiving the EITC are usually younger working families who are not homeowners. My experience says that these working parents are most often working full time in jobs that pay $20,000 to $35,000 a year. Typically these are not jobs that pay mileage or have an expense account. Married workers receive a higher rate. The refundable credit allows them to make car repairs or get new tires, pay off credit cards and medical bills and buy their children new shoes. I actually had persons in the Capitol last year state, "It is only $300!"
Most important, the Kansas refund of $300 promotes tax fairness. These working parents pay food tax (for which there is no rebate starting in 2013), sales tax and property tax most often through rent. Gas tax is the same if you are driving a Ford Contour or a Cadillac.
I continue to be baffled that legislators can speak of the benefit to middle- and high- income families of having an extra $300 in their pockets as a result of tax policy, while seemingly failing to comprehend what the same $300 means to low-income working parents. This cut in the EITC will not automatically happen. I encourage you to raise your voice with legislators who will most likely be making this decision in the coming days. Let them know that you care about parents who are working in low-wage jobs. Let legislators know that you care about the children in these families. Let them know that you care about tax fairness.