A bipartisan way to help working families

Gov. Jerry Brown, who spoke to business leaders last week, is proposing a state version of the earned income tax credit.
Gov. Jerry Brown, who spoke to business leaders last week, is proposing a state version of the earned income tax credit. The Associated Press

Common sense has no party lines. That’s why I applaud Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to create a state earned income tax credit to help California’s working families.

As someone born and raised in – and now representing – the most impoverished Senate district in California, I have witnessed a lifetime of the heartbreaking human suffering.

It’s wrong that parents have to stand in food bank lines because they aren’t earning enough to make ends meet. These hardworking families should be able to keep more of the money they earn. When folks in disadvantaged communities have more money to spend, those extra dollars have a positive ripple effect by supporting local jobs and small businesses.

Under the governor’s plan, families earning less than $13,870 a year would qualify for the tax credit. An average family would keep $460 more; a family with three or more children would get as much as $2,653. About 825,000 families would be helped, costing $380 million a year.

Senate Bill 152, which I authored, would provide the state tax credit to more than 3 million low- and middle-income families. The bill, however, was held in the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is another reason I support the governor’s proposal.

Offering a state earned income tax credit is not a new idea. It’s modeled after the federal credit; nearly half of other states offer one. While a tax deduction lowers taxable income, a tax credit provides a dollar-for-dollar reduction of income tax owed to the government.

California has been working its way out of the recession over the last several years, and state tax revenues reflect the upswing. When you consider that the state will collect an additional $13 billion in taxes in just one budget cycle, it is common sense to offer this help to those working hard to get out and stay out of poverty.

When given the opportunity, most people want to work. Research shows that the tax credit is an effective tool for lifting families out of poverty and rewarding that work ethic. This isn’t a handout, it’s a hand up.

As the 2015-16 budget moves forward in legislative hearings, there seems to be broad support for the governor’s proposal. The devil is always in the details, and hopefully the final version of this proposal will continue to receive bipartisan support.

I will continue to be a strong voice of opposition when I disagree with Gov. Brown and others on proposals, such as high-speed rail, that hurt the folks in my district. But the governor’s proposal to help working families keep more of their hard-earned money and boost economically disadvantaged communities has my wholehearted support.

Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, represents the 14th Senate District.