Republican Presidential Candidates Laud EITC at South Carolina Forum
January 12, 2016Print
By Lauren Pescatore
Columbia, S.C. – The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) was a hot topic over the weekend at the Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity, the first-ever gathering in which the Speaker of the House engaged Republican presidential hopefuls on issues of poverty and opportunity in America. Tax Credits for Working Families had the opportunity to attend the event, which drew in a crowd notably more diverse than that of other GOP forums – ranging from conservative think tank officials to advocates from left-leaning nonprofits, as well as members of the faith community who told us they had yet to make up their mind about who to support.
“We doubled the EITC because we have to do more than just talk about work. We have to really reward the people who are out there doing it.” – Gov. Chris Christie
The forum, which was moderated by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), featured Governors Chris Christie (R-N.J.) and John Kasich (R-Ohio), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), former governors Jeb Bush (R-FL) and Mike Huckabee (R-AR), and Dr. Ben Carson discussing how they would break the cycle of poverty if elected president. Strategies ranged from higher-quality early childhood education to tax breaks for workers struggling to make ends meet. But few topics received as much attention or support as the EITC.
Governor Christie, who has had a rocky relationship with the EITC, touted his state’s recent EITC expansion as smart policy. “We doubled the Earned Income Tax Credit in New Jersey,” Christie said, “because we have to do more than just talk about work. We have to really reward the people who are out there doing it.”
“That’s the key of the EITC. It makes work pay.” – House Speaker Paul Ryan
Speaker Ryan, who has proposed a federal EITC expansion nearly identical to President Obama’s, then turned to Christie to confirm, “That’s the key of the EITC, right? It actually makes work pay.” Ryan went on to address the common misconception that the EITC is welfare, noting that the credit’s connection to work distinguishes it from such programs.
Former governor Bush spoke about his proposal to double the federal EITC for single filers and lower the age of eligibility from 25 to 21 – two key improvements also featured in Speaker Ryan’s proposal.
Governor Kasich gave a nod to Ohio’s state-level EITC, noting that it builds off of the federal credit to incentivize “people to rise and not put them in a position of where they go to work, and they lose more than what they gain.”
“Raising a family is incredibly expensive. And I think the most important job any of us will ever have is the job of a parent. So I want our tax code to reflect that” – Sen. Marco Rubio
Sen. Rubio was silent on the EITC but heralded his plan to increase the Child Tax Credit, calling the program “pro work” and a policy that “allows hard-working families to keep more of what they earn.” Rubio went on to acknowledge, “Right now raising a family in the 21st century is incredibly expensive. And I think the most important job any of us will ever have is the job of a parent. So I want our tax code to reflect that. And that’s why I’ve called for an increase in a per-child tax credit.”
The only dissenting opinion on the EITC came from Carson. Expressing concern that it “may not be a very popular thing to say,” Carson called the EITC a “manipulation of the tax system” that he just doesn’t agree with “for whatever good reason.” Carson recently proposed instituting a 15 percent flat tax for businesses and individuals and eliminating all deductions and credits, including the EITC.
For full video coverage of the event, as well as a transcript, click here.