Lansing Update: March 25, 2011

In This Week’s Lansing Update:

  1. MCC Urges Tax Policy Committee to Retain State EITC
  2. Conference Supports Continued Assistance Programs in DHS Budget
  3. Action Alert! Support For D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program Needed

MCC Urges Tax Policy Committee to Retain State EITC

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) does more to lift low-income families and their children out of poverty than any other policy, and the state has an obligation to continue to work toward decreasing the number of children living below the poverty line, MCC testified before the House Tax Policy Committee this week.

Michigan Catholic Conference has made protecting the state EITC its top legislative priority this year as legislators and the administration have sought to eliminate the credit in order to help pay down the state’s budget deficit and to provide businesses with a substantial tax cut.

The House Tax Policy Committee over the course of several weeks is conducting hearings to evaluate the state’s tax structure, of which Governor Snyder’s administration has called for a complete overhaul. In order to provide businesses with an overall $1.8 billion tax cut, the governor has proposed eliminating the state Earned Income Tax Credit, taxing private and public pension programs (which currently are not taxed), and eliminating several other tax credits, including the Homestead Tax Credit.

All told, the governor’s proposal would eliminate the state’s $1.7 billion deficit while at the same time provide an 86 percent tax cut for businesses in Michigan.

The House Tax Policy Committee will continue to take testimony on the state’s tax structure next week, and any effort to reinstate funding for the state Earned Income Tax Credit will likely take place in this committee. MCC will continue to advocate for preservation of the state EITC throughout the legislative process.

A vote on funding for EITC is expected in the coming weeks, and an action alert will be sent to members of the Catholic Legislative Advocacy Network urging support for this important policy.

Conference Supports Continued Assistance Programs in DHS Budget

Conference staff testified this week in the House Appropriations Department of Human Services Subcommittee urging members to include in the department’s annual budget a measure that would allow those with past drug convictions to receive food and other basic assistance from the state.

Testimony before the House DHS subcommittee focused on allowing those convicted of past drug-related crimes to be eligible for state assistance through the Family Independence Grant program. The dollars that help fund this state program come from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families allowance, which gives states the choice of whether or not to allow such assistance.

MCC has long advocated for restorative justice, and believes that helping pregnant women who have previously been convicted of drug-related crimes, for example, should be eligible for basic assistance. Michigan also has a nationally recognized Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative, which works to reduce recidivism by helping parolees successfully return to their communities.

Staff will continue to follow this issue as committee members work to finalize the departmental budget.

Action Alert! Support For D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program Needed

Michigan Catholic Conference, working in solidarity with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has posted on its website an action alert item regarding the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. This federally funded program allows eligible low-income families in the District of Columbia to use federal dollars to attend a private, including Catholic, school of their choice.

The Catholic Church has long taught that parents are the primary educators of their children and the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children. Catholic social teaching emphasizes that poor and vulnerable persons deserve preferential concern when programs are being developed.

Members of the Catholic Legislative Advocate Network are encouraged to contact their member of Congress and urge reauthorization of this program. Background for the action alert and additional information may be found here [Link no longer available —Ed.]. Please contact your member of Congress today!

Editor’s Note: The Michigan Legislature will be on spring break the next two weeks and will return to its regular session schedule the week of April 11.