Federal tax credit for working families doesn’t go far enough. Washington needs own version

Tacoma City Council member Keith Blocker
Tacoma City Council member Keith Blocker News Tribune file photo

What would a few hundred dollars back in your pocket mean for you and your family? I’m sure something leaps to mind, perhaps covering rent or paying bills or being able to put some money away for a rainy day.

I regularly hear from people in Tacoma about how hard it is to keep up with the rising cost of living in our region.

Growing up, my family struggled to have a roof over our heads and food on the table. I know that a few hundred dollars could have been a big help to us during the hardest times.

This is why I wholeheartedly support a bill in the Washington Legislature to enact a Working Families Tax Credit, which would provide an income boost to families who need it most.

It would refund a portion of state taxes to low- and moderate-income earners. It’s a simple way to support workers in Tacoma and strengthen our local economy.

Basically, low-wage earners would receive an average credit of $350 per year and working families with kids to support would get more, up to $970 per year.

The credit would be our state’s version of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), one of the most successful federal programs on the books to lift families out of poverty.

Currently, more than 58,000 Pierce County households (16,000 in Tacoma alone) receive the federal EITC. Even more people would qualify for the state-level Working Families Tax Credit.

And because it would have a large positive impact on communities of color, enacting this policy is an important step toward advancing racial equity. Communities that have been most hurt by historically racist policies, such as redlining and employment discrimination, would have a better chance to get ahead financially.

The state credit would also wisely include workers who pay a disproportionate share of state and local taxes but who are excluded from the federal program: people like low-income workers without children, college students with low incomes, family caregivers and immigrant workers.

This paycheck boost is not only good for workers and their families in Tacoma; it also boosts our economy. Families could spend the extra income on what they most need, like car repairs, healthy food or school supplies, and they’re likely to spend it locally.

I’m so glad that Rep. Debra Entenman (D-Kent) and Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-Seattle) sponsored the Working Families Tax Credit bills in Olympia, and that the Senate included the credit in its proposal to fix Washington’s tax code.

If it passes this session, it would be a big win for people throughout Tacoma and Pierce County who are struggling to make ends meet. It’s quite simply a common sense policy for workers, families and our economy.

Keith Blocker is the Tacoma City Council member for District 3 and a managing partner at Archway Consulting Group, where he assists organizations in becoming more diverse and inclusive.