Arizona Children Come Up Short in Tax Plan

By Olivia Golden and Ann Marie Marino

In the early hours of December 2, 51 U.S. Senators approved a bill that would provide unprecedented tax cuts for the wealthiest households, while leaving behind low-income and middle class families in Arizona. The House had earlier passed a similar bill. For Arizona families, this is no cause to celebrate. The state’s Congressional delegation still has time to recognize this bill’s damage to children and families — and ensure it never becomes law.

As an organization working with young children, families, and early educators across Maricopa County, Jumpstart can see first-hand how these bills put Arizona’s children and families at risk. Twenty-four percent of the state’s children live in poverty and almost half live in households with incomes under $42,000. Few of these families would benefit at all from the tax bills passed in Congress. Children of color — three-fifths of Arizona children — would also see virtually no benefit from the tax plan. Some immigrant families would even lose access to the child tax credit entirely.

The tax bill would add millions of dollars to the pockets of the wealthiest while providing little to no benefit to low- and middle-income families. For example, the 80 estates in Arizona wealthy enough to benefit from the estate tax cuts could receive as much as a $4.4 million-dollar tax break each. Meanwhile, the parents of the 264,000 children from low-income families in Arizona would receive a tiny boost of $75 or less via the child tax credit, and even those funds would expire in 10 years.

In fact, struggling families in Arizona lose out twice: they get little or nothing from the tax bill now and risk losing critical supports long-term as they watch their Medicaid coverage get slashed, Head Start waiting lists rapidly grow, and public schools spend drastically less on children. This is because both the House and Senate versions of the tax bill would increase our national deficit by a staggering $1.5 trillion, and Congressional leaders have already signaled plans to use the deficit for justifying cuts to critical programs for Arizona’s working families. Additionally, the conference agreement announced on December 13 appears to follow the Senate bill in eliminating the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, meaning an estimated 13 million people could lose health coverage. In Arizona, this would raise a family of four’s marketplace premiums by $2,060 and increase the uninsured by 282,000 by 2025.

Overall, this bill represents a missed opportunity. Congress could have made the Child Tax Credit fully refundable to provide a boost to low-income working families. Congress could have improved the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit so it doesn’t leave out low-income families who struggle the most with the soaring costs of child care. Congress could have expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit for workers without dependents, which promotes work and helps non-custodial parents pay child support. These ideas have received bi-partisan support in the past.

Congress needs to go back to the drawing board to create a bill that prioritizes Arizona’s children and families. Because the House and Senate passed different versions, they both must vote again on a combined bill before it can become law. Arizona’s Congressional delegation should vote on the side of the state’s children and families by voting “no” on this bill that would harm the future of Arizona and the nation.

Note: This article originally appeared on Medium.

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Olivia Golden is the Executive Director of The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), a nonpartisan organization advancing policy solutions for low-income people, and Ann Marie Marino is the Arizona Workforce Pathways Program Director for Jumpstart, a nonpartisan organization providing quality early learning opportunities for low-income communities.