Helping working families supports local economies

the Rev. Dr. Steven Koski and R.J. McHatton /

Published Jun 26, 2013 at 05:00AM

As a local clergyperson and a small-business owner, we stand together in asking for your support on an important policy decision our state legislators will need to make before the end of this legislative session.

In Oregon, our state Earned Income Tax Credit, along with the federal credit, provides a boost to the annual family budget of hundreds of thousands of low- to moderate-income families with children struggling to make ends meet.

Here in Sen. Tim Knopp’s district (the Bend area), 9,052 families receive the EITC credit. The federal credit brings $17 million into the local economy and the state credit another $915,900. This money gets spent on car repairs, food, children’s school clothes and supplies and other necessities.

From a small-business point of view, the Earned Income Tax Credit helps stimulate cash flow in the local economy. Cash is spent in the shops of local merchants. Interviews with small-business owners recently filmed for the Main Street Alliance of Oregon in The Dalles, Hood River, Eugene and McMinnville captured a common theme — small-business owners are outspoken in their praise for this credit that helps support working families so they have the cash to support their local economies. The video interviews revealed that the small-business owners themselves, sometime in their lives, have often benefited from the Earned Income Tax Credit. Nationally, more than 14 percent of filers with small-business income claim this credit.

Churches and clergy across the state can attest to the fact that many people sitting in our pews, as well as those we serve through our social ministries, continue to struggle on the economic margins. The Christian Scriptures remind us that, “When one person suffers; all suffer ... yet if one person is honored, all rejoice together” (paraphrase I Corinthians 12:26). Jesus declares throughout the Gospels that he has come to fulfill the moral requirements of the Hebrew Scriptures to protect the poor, to treat them justly and to give them an opportunity to meet their basic needs and improve their lives. Besides identifying the love of God and neighbor as the two greatest commandments, Jesus proclaimed that he had come “to preach the good news to the poor” and to “release the oppressed.” He called for social structures that protect the poor from economic oppression and allow them an opportunity to better their lives. (Source: Susan Pace Hamill, “The Least of These: Fair Taxes and the Moral Duty of Christians”)

The Earned Income Tax Credit is widely viewed as one of the best anti-poverty programs in America. Each year it lifts millions of families out of poverty. It opens the door to economic opportunity for families that work by encouraging work and making work pay. President Ronald Reagan called the EITC “the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job-creation measure to come out of Congress.”

So, the Earned Income Tax Credit is a clear win-win for struggling families and Oregon communities.

But the state credit, scheduled to sunset this year, needs action by the Legislature to be extended, or it will end.

And, as it is one of the smallest credits in the country, Gov. John Kitzhaber and advocates statewide recommend increasing it from 6 to 8 percent of the federal credit to put a few more dollars into families’ pockets and into the cash registers of local businesses throughout Oregon.

We hope Reps. Jason Conger and Gene Whisnant and Sen. Tim Knopp will join the bipartisan effort to extend and improve the Oregon Earned Income Tax Credit.

It makes good sense from both a business and a moral perspective.