Idaho can put our kids, and our future, at the center of policy. Even tax policy
Can the way we design our tax system reduce child abuse and neglect? The future of our state depends on the well-being of Idaho children. While there are many ways we invest in our children, all children do not have equal advantages. One in five Idaho children lives in poverty. This past legislative session, Idaho lawmakers approved $600 million in tax cuts. But Idaho’s wealthiest saw the largest benefits as a result, not kids in struggling families. During the next legislative session, Idaho’s lawmakers should consider strong family-centered tax and economic policies to support the state’s children. Any kind of stress on caregivers and families can make abuse and neglect more likely, and financial stress is not different. But we can alleviate this by letting families keep more of what parents earn on the job and easing the struggles that come with financial insecurity. In fact, the first recommendation from national experts for preventing child abuse and neglect is to strengthen economic support for families. An Idaho Working Families Credit – based on the federal Earned Income Tax Credit – would be a step in the right direction. If passed, working parents would be able to offset more of the taxes they pay, with families of modest incomes able to keep more of their earnings. This would return money to the pockets of families in Idaho with lower incomes. This increased family financial well-being could result in benefits for families and children as well as for local economies. Households of modest incomes are more likely to spend their tax credit dollars supporting local businesses, strengthening themselves and our local communities rather than supporting outside economies that have little impact on us. Nor is this an unusual proposal even in states similar to Idaho – Utah, for instance, signed into law a tax package that creates an earned income tax credit for Utahns and their children. More than thirty other states already have this credit. Those states have seen improvements in the financial well-being of families of modest incomes.
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