With Tax Reform on the Table, Youth Advocates Push for Anti-Poverty Measures

It’s hard to find a lawmaker, pundit or political prognosticator who believes the recommendations from the governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform will pass in the upcoming legislative session (even Gov. Steve Beshear has said 2014 may be the year). But the head of Kentucky Youth Advocates says this could be the time for one particular tax reform.

Every six months, Kentucky Youth Advocates releases  the Kids Count report — in June the report is part of a nationwide study, in December it’s county-by-county. And with every report comes similarly-dismal news: about a quarter of Kentucky’s roughly one million children live in poverty, while education gaps and any other number of related issues persist.

(Read the report here.

Further, each report brings with it suggestions for solutions, and among those is the creation of a state earned income tax credit.

The federal government already has an earned income tax credit, which is aimed at middle- and low-income families and is often called one of the most effective anti-poverty measures in recent history.

The earned income tax credit already exists on the federal level. Kentucky Youth Advocates has for years pushed for a similar credit on the state level. 

Kentucky Youth Advocates Executive Director Terry Brooks said that if lawmakers are to discuss tax reform when they return to Frankfort on Jan. 8, they should focus on the earned income tax credit, which the governor’s tax commission recommended lawmakers approve. 

“We’ve been trying to enact comprehensive tax reform in Kentucky for over a decade and it doesn’t happen,” he said. “And I don’t think it’s going to happen in 2013. So one approach is to continue to wait, or you could find some common-sense, common-ground proposals.”

Brooks is just now starting to work with lawmakers to begin a new push for a state earned income tax credit. 

“On a very pragmatic basis, we wanted to wait until after the election and after the leadership races got decided,” Brooks said. That’s sort of in progress. We have some real hopes.”

Not everything in the Kids Count report is bad news, though. Brooks said lawmakers have been responsive to the needs for alternative education in the state, and the progress on that front is encouraging. 

Gabe Bullard

Gabe Bullard is the director of news and editorial strategy.

@gbullard

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