What the EITC’s Increasing Popularity in the States Could Mean for Presidential Politics

By Kate Skochdopole

Presidential candidates seeking tax breaks for working families should look to the states for inspiration.

It’s been a landmark year for state-level progressive Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) legislation. California recently became the 27th state (including the District of Columbia) to offer an EITC of its own, and Maine made its credit refundable last week. Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island passed legislation to increase their state EITCs to a higher percentage of the federal credit. Republican and Democratic governors approved these measures with support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Not only does the EITC enjoy bipartisan support across the states, but also it’s widely popular among voters as an anti-poverty tool. In Michigan, the only state currently considering the elimination of its EITC, 69 percent of voters oppose cutting the credit – even if it could help pay for improved roads across the state.

So, what does this mean for those vying for the presidency in 2016?

“Candidates from both parties will be telling voters how they plan to reduce poverty and increase economic mobility,” says Ron Haskins, co-director of the Brookings Institution’s Center on Children and Families and of its Budgeting for National Priorities Project. “The EITC is bound to play a big role in the recommendations of candidates from both parties, especially expanding the EITC for noncustodial, (mostly male) parents.”

Most presidential candidates have not released the details of their economic plans, but a few have shown support for the EITC and other tax credits for working families during their time in office. Former Governors Martin O’Malley (D-MD) and George Pataki (R-NY) signed EITC expansions into law during their terms. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) recently proposed and made law an expansion of the state EITC after reducing the credit in 2010 and repeatedly vetoing efforts to restore it in following years. As 2016 nears and the candidates begin to release the specifics of their plans for the economy, it’s likely we’ll see more discussion around improving the federal EITC.

“Any policy supported by both Paul Ryan and Barack Obama has legs,” Haskins said, alluding to the fact that both the Democratic President and Republican Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee have proposed expanding the EITC.