American families making less than $100,000 a year could be eligible for a monthly tax credit of up to $500, or $6,000 a year, under new legislation announced Thursday by Democratic U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California.
Individuals making less than $50,000 would be eligible for up to $250 a month, $3,000 a year.
“Americans are working harder than ever but stagnant wages mean they can’t keep up with cost of living increases,” Harris, a likely presidential candidate in 2020, said in a statement.
Harris’ office cited a 2017 survey from the website Bankrate.com that found more than half of Americans cannot afford a $500 unexpected expense, such as a rent increase, medical bill or child care.
According to Harris’ office, recipients could receive the money in either monthly payments or annually.
“The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimates the (bill) would impact one in every two workers and two out of every three children in America,” according to Harris’ office, in addition to approximately 1 million Pell Grant-eligible college students.
Harris’ announcement also included endorsements from several elected officials and organizations, including Alice Huffman, president of the California NAACP, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs and the mayors of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and Long Beach.
Tubbs, has drawn national attention for a “basic income” program that begins next year for city residents. It, too, will offer $500 a month to residents who meet income requirements.
However, the bill faces long odds of passing any time soon.
“There’s no real chance that this will become law in the next couple of years,” said Jack Pitney, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College.
In part, that’s because it’s unlikely that Democrats will win enough seats to gain a majority in the U.S. Senate in 2018; political polling website FiveThirtyEight gives Democrats just a 21 percent chance of turning the Senate blue.
“Even if it did, (the bill) would need 60 votes to overcome a certain filibuster,” Pitney said.
So why introduce a bill that’s unlikely to become law?
“It appeals to the Democratic base, it appeals to low-income voters, it’s a very clever tactic to turn the tax issue against the Republicans,” Pitney said. “Republicans were hoping their tax cut would be a political bonanza but it backfired on them. People don’t like it and this is an effort to ride that sentiment.”
The professor said introducing the bill is yet another sign that Harris is strongly weighing a presidential bid.
But if the bill were to become law?
“As policy, it would be problematic,” Pitney said.
That’s because reversing it would mean undoing tax cuts that would have been in place for years by the time the bill became law.
“But as politics right now, it’s probably going to give her quite a boost,” Pitney said.