Veterans Day: You’ve sacrificed enough

Every year on November 11th, we as a nation thank those who served for the sacrifices they made in protecting our freedom. We honor a great uncle who served during World War II, a parent who fought in Vietnam, or a cousin who just returned from a final tour in Afghanistan. While it is important that we take a day to remember our veterans, it’s equally important to make sure veterans have the resources to return to their lives and provide for their families.

One of the best ways we can do this is to ask Congress to save key provisions of two tax credits that help veterans and military families make ends meet. These credits, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC), only go to people who work, and they encourage employment and self-sufficiency. The benefits of the EITC and CTC are undisputed. These tax credits encourage work, help lift families out of poverty, and improve the lives of children. Additionally, research shows children in families that benefit from the EITC and CTC are healthier, do better in school, are more likely to go to college, and earn more as adults.

Millions of Americans, including two million active service members, veterans, and their families, receive these credits to provide for their families. In Michigan alone, about 62,000 veteran and military families benefit from the EITC, the low-income component of the CTC, or both. However, if key provisions expire, half of these families, including 32,000 in Michigan, could lose all or part of their credits. What this means is that a single veteran with two children making Michigan minimum wage—$18,500—would lose $1,415 of his or her $2,000 child tax credit.

Michigan’s veterans were hit hard by the recent recession. In every year of the past decade, Michigan’s average annual unemployment rate for veterans has been higher than the national average, and in half of the past ten years, Michigan veterans have had a higher unemployment rate than Michigan’s average unemployment rate. In general, veterans from the post-9/11 era have been disproportionately affected. And while things seem to be improving, we must continue to support our active service members and veteran families.

Right now, Congress is starting to debate the extension of a number of business tax credits that expire this year. Both Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch and House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady have expressed an eagerness to either extend or make permanent these business tax cuts by the end of the year. And should any of these credits be made permanent, these key EITC and CTC provisions should be treated the same.

Military men and women put their lives on the line to ensure our safety and to protect our freedom. And they shouldn’t have to strain to provide for themselves and their families once they return home. This Veterans Day, Congress should honor the men and women who served our country by protecting these credits that help so many when they return.

– Rachel Richards


Two generation policies offer support for parents and kids

On Monday, October 26th, the Michigan League for Public Policy held our annual meeting and public policy forum, “Secure Parents and Successful Kids.” We were joined by more than 250 people from around the state and a host of national and state experts and innovators in the fields of education, economic security and child well-being to discuss a two-generation approach to tackling poverty.

Our keynote speaker was Anne Mosle, who directs Ascend at the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C. Ascend is a national hub for breakthrough ideas and collaborations that move children and their parents towards educational success and economic security—the very definition of a two generation approach.

Anne began her presentation with a short video on the Jeremiah Program. Jeremiah provides single mothers and their children with a safe, affordable place to live, quality early childhood education, life skills training and support for career-track education. The video summarizes the dilemma many low-income families face, and how two generation strategies can help. Oftentimes these families are so focused on surviving and getting by that they are unable to succeed and move up. But if they have support in the moment, they can start planning for and building toward the future.

As Anne stated, we have to meet people where they are and develop a plan for where they want to go. Equity doesn’t just happen. It has to be an intentional commitment instead. For example, $3,000 in extra family income can increase a child’s economic trajectory by over 20%.

Anne and her colleagues at Ascend have put together a booklet, Top Ten for 2Gen, that includes policy ideas and principles to advance two-generation efforts. It outlines the keys to success and stability that all families need, and they are the same areas where the League is working in Michigan: early education, postsecondary education and employment pathways, health and well-being, social capital and economic assets.

Anne’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion on two-generation policies and approaches in Michigan with Tim Becker, chief deputy director, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; Carol Goss, former CEO of the Skillman Foundation; Dr. Ali Webb, director of Michigan programs, W.K. Kellogg Foundation; and Mindy Ysasi, executive director, The SOURCE.

Tim Becker shared a presentation on the “River of Opportunity” and noted that it is in his department and the state’s best interest to try a two generation approach to better help children and families together. Having worked in human resources for some of the state’s leading organizations, Mindy Ysasi said that workplace policy is a key area where a two generation approach is needed and that “the people who need the most flexibility have the least flexibility.”

The panel also delved into Michigan’s political climate and racial inequity. The League also recently examined the racial disparities in the state budget that are perpetuating poverty for people of color in Michigan.

A large focus of the discussion was that everyone’s work on poverty and two generation policies is still largely dependent on the Legislature and the budget. Dr. Ali Webb and Carol Goss talked about the efforts of foundations like theirs, but that it is not enough without policy changes at the state level. Michigan’s state budget of a couple hundred billion can have way more of an impact than any one foundation.

Research shows that two-generation programs and policies are a win-win for children, their families and the state, and should have universal appeal to nonprofit and service organizations and elected officials. The League’s public policy forum was a good start, but there is much work ahead to truly start implementing two generation policies in Michigan.

 – Gilda Z. Jacobs

More needs to be done to address economic disparities for kids and families

As we approach the beginning of the state’s 2016 budget year, the League’s latest report weighs in on whether or not lawmakers have made the investments needed to give all Michigan residents a chance to succeed. It concludes that more needs to be done to ensure that children get a healthy start in life and a high-quality education, and their parents have the skills and resources required to succeed in the workplace.

The report outlines both wins and losses for Michigan children and their families in the 2016 budget, but the greatest concern raised is the ongoing failure to invest in programs that can lift children out of poverty and create the economic security needed to overcome deep and discouraging disparities based on income, race and place. (more…)

Hard work, the American dream and tax credits

On Monday, we as a nation celebrated Labor Day. While—unfortunately—many people see it only as a day off of work, a day full of sales at the mall, and the last big grill out of the summer, Labor Day was actually established to pay tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. On a day that celebrates the value of work, it’s also a good time to reflect on two of our nation’s best pro-work tools and the workers they help. The federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) keep millions of working families out of poverty and support a diverse array of professionals across the country and around Michigan. (more…)

Michigan families need federal action on EITC, CTC

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While much attention has been focused recently on protecting the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), there is equally urgent action needed in Washington to save critical pieces of the federal EITC and Child Tax Credit (CTC). The federal and Michigan EITCs combine to provide much-needed support to help working families rise out of poverty, and we have to fight this battle on multiple fronts in order to protect these valuable tools.

The three provisions of the federal EITC and CTC that are set to expire are: a larger EITC for families raising three or more children; a reduction in the EITC “marriage penalty” that some two-earner families face; and a lower CTC earnings exclusion that expands the credit to very low-income working families. These stipulations are critical to helping millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents make ends meet and afford the very things that keep them working, such as child care and transportation. (more…)

Young but not invincible: Young adults rely on credits too

When I graduated law school in 2008, I got rejection letter after rejection letter. I applied for every job you could imagine – part time, full time, hourly, salaried – the jobs just weren’t there. I eventually landed in a great office, but many millennials–those born between 1981 and 1997—who were just graduating high school, college, or from graduate programs, weren’t so lucky. (more…)

Graduated Income Tax: Making our system fairer while raising needed funds

As the issue of “tax fairness” continues to arise and the state faces a significant budget shortfall, perhaps it’s time to seriously consider changing Michigan’s income tax structure. Michigan is one of only eight states with a flat income tax rate, and, because of this structure, low-income taxpayers pay the 9th highest personal income taxes for their group in the country, while the top 1% actually pay at a slightly lower rate than their counterparts in other states. A graduated income tax structure, where those who earn more would pay more, makes the income tax system fairer and generates new funds. (more…)

Voting yes on Proposal 1 is voting to improve our communities

We all agree that we need better roads in Michigan, but we don’t agree on how we pay for them. With the various strains on the state budget, including a shortfall due to outstanding business tax credits and an increasingly overreliance on federal funds, it’s hard to imagine a proposal that fixes our roads, invests in our schools and local communities, and protects Michigan’s lowest earners.

Vote yes on Proposal 1 to once and for all guarantee funding for safer roads

Proposal 1 meets these objectives while any “Plan B” likely would increase road funding at the detriment of our schools, communities and vulnerable families.

Next Tuesday, voters will decide whether to back Proposal 1, a comprehensive, bipartisan plan or to take a chance with the new Legislature. There is a lot of frustration surrounding Proposal 1 for several reasons. Some people say “it’s too complicated” or “the Legislature punted the issue.” Yes, it is complicated and for good reason: A long-term, structural fix to fund our roads into the future has a lot of moving pieces that must be addressed. It can’t be simple.

But no, legislators did not punt the issue. They devised this plan that must be approved by voters. Raising Michigan’s sales tax requires a ballot proposal.

While Proposal 1 may not be perfect—no policy is—this is pretty good, and quite possibly, the best solution to all of our problems. Proposal 1 contains many benefits:

    • It removes the sales tax from gas purchases while increasing the gas tax to ensure that all of our taxes paid on gas go to support the roads.
    • It changes our flat tax rate to one based on the wholesale cost of gas helping it keep up with inflation so that the tax doesn’t lose its purchasing power and making funds more stable in the long-run.
    • Eliminating the sales tax on gas, which primarily supports schools and communities, means the sales tax must be increased to prevent cuts to schools and local governments.
    • Increasing the sales tax has the potential to hit the lowest earners the most; therefore, with the passage of Proposal 1, the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit would significantly increase from 6% to 20% to help offset the sales tax increase.

The Legislature has given the public a voice in deciding how to fund improvements to our quickly deteriorating and unsafe roads. We cannot sacrifice the possible for the perfect. Every day we wait to find a road funding solution, the costs go up for taxpayers.

Support for Proposal 1 is support for better roads, better schools, and better local communities to create a state where people will want to live, work, and play.

– Alicia Guevara Warren



Promoting Early Literacy in Michigan


We all can agree that children should be provided the supports they need to become literate by the end of the third grade. Most students who fail to reach this critical milestone fall further behind and often drop out before earning a high school diploma. Low-income students are at higher risk of low literacy skills than their peers from higher-income families and well-resourced schools.

INVEST: States that have seen the most dramatic improvements in early literacy have made substantial investments in early interventions. Without additional funding, schools with large numbers of disadvantaged students are hampered in their efforts. For example, the substantial gains in reading proficiency among Florida students were aided by $165 million to support reading specialists and summer programs.

CURRENT SITUATION IN MICHIGAN: Roughly 40,000 of the state’s third-graders did not demonstrate proficiency in MEAP reading in 2013, and 10,000 of those had scores at the most elementary level (4)—NOT proficient.


EARLY INTERVENTION IS PREVENTION: Let’s begin by strengthening existing systems for maternal and infant health, child lead poisoning prevention, early intervention for children with disabilities or developmental delays and improved access to subsidized high quality child care. Expanded access to preschool for 3-year-olds and dental care for Medicaid-eligible children would also enhance readiness.

POVERTY: The clear connection between poverty and academic achievement must be addressed. Raising the state Earned Income Tax Credit and strengthening family supports will improve achievement. Parents in low-wage jobs with minimal benefits need family-friendly policies at work and in government programs.


Child poverty in the 21st century

The number of Michigan children living in families with income below the poverty level drops by half when tax and non-cash benefits are included as income, according to the latest analysis from the national KIDS COUNT project at the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The percentage of the state’s children who would be living in poverty if no government program benefits and tax credits were available, however, stood at 30 percent, as calculated by the Supplemental Poverty Measure. (more…)

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