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Coalition campaigns for tax credit for low-income workers in WV

A coalition of 18 citizen and community organizations kicked off a campaign Monday for passage of a state Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income workers, unveiling a website that shows the economic impact of the credit, by legislative districts.

Seth DiStefano, with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, said the credit would go a long way toward correcting the state’s “upside-down” tax structure that means persons in lower income brackets pay a higher percentage of their earnings in taxes.

“The federal Earned Income Tax Credit has been known on both sides of the aisle as one of the greatest tools to fight poverty,” he said, urging legislators to make West Virginia the 27th state to provide such relief on state income taxes.

Statewide, the credit would provide refunds of a portion of state income taxes to more than 140,000 low-income working West Virginians, with an average refund of about $330, according to data on the new website, www.investinwvfamilies.org. Those households include more than 160,000 children, according to the data.

The credit would cost the state about $46.9 million a year in lost income tax revenue, but proponents Monday said it would be an economic stimulus program, since the recipients would spend the tax refund money in their communities.

Elaine Harris, with the Communications Workers of America, said many public employees would be among the 140,000 who would benefit.

“These people go to work, they go to work every day. They provide a service for us, and they don’t make much money,” she said. “Every penny these people can keep, they will put back into the economy.”

Gary Zuckett, executive director of the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, called on legislators to consider the credit as they study changes to the state tax system.

“This is a premier anti-poverty program that rewards work, that’s a hand-up, not a handout,” he said.

The website allows people to enter their localities to get specific information about potential benefits of the earned income tax credit for their towns and counties, and includes links allowing them to compose and email letters to their state senators and delegates.

Only two legislators attended the noon announcement Monday — Delegates Nancy Guthrie and Mike Pushkin, both D-Kanawha.

However, they pointed out that there were conflicting party caucuses at that hour, and Pushkin said he believes there is sizable bipartisan support for the measure in the Legislature.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazettemail.com, 304 348-1220 or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

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