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Economic Opportunity Coalition Discusses Legislative Agenda

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From Progress Virginia:

Priorities include wage increases, paid sick days, and targeted tax policies 

Richmond, VA  – Virginia’s Economic Opportunity Coalition today announced key legislative priorities for the 2015 General Assembly session to promote economic security for Virginia families. Legislative priorities include making Virginia’s Earned Income Tax Credit fully refundable, providing broader access to paid sick days, and raising Virginia’s minimum wage.

Michael Cassidy, President of the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, explained why making Virginia’s EIC refundable would provide a huge boost to working Virginians. “Although we are well into the recovery, low-wage workers with full-time jobs across Virginia are struggling to earn enough to pay for necessities that help them get to work, like childcare and transportation,” said Cassidy. “Making matters worse, the lowest-income households also pay a greater share of their income to state and local taxes than all other households. Virginia lawmakers have a critical opportunity to help working families and to strengthen the economy and local businesses by making the Earned Income Credit refundable.” 

The EIC provides a modest credit for roughly 314,000 low-wage working families, like those in the military, against the income taxes they owe, freeing up more of their household budgets to pay for basic goods and services. But the credit is not refundable. Making just half the credit refundable would put roughly $40 million back into the pockets of working families.

Doris Crouse Mays of the Virginia AFL-CIO reiterated the importance of raising Virginia’s minimum wage, currently set at the federal minimum of $7.25/hour. “As people who care deeply about Virginia, we want our Commonwealth to be an attractive place to live and work,” said Crouse Mays. “The minimum wage is now $2 less in real dollars than it was in 1968. During that time, the cost of everything has increased. That’s led to a breaking point for many hard working families. Workers should be seen as assets to business, not a cost to reduce. Workers treated with respect and paid a decent wage are more productive and loyal employees. That’s good for business, for families, and for our local communities.”

The Coalition also highlighted the necessity of providing greater access to paid sick days to working Virginians. “Everybody gets sick, but not everybody can afford to take time off to get better or care for a sick kid,” said Anna Scholl, executive director of ProgressVA. “Over one million Virginia workers don’t have a paid sick day. That means when they or a family member get sick, they have to choose between jeopardizing public health or risking their family’s economic security. Kids and schools are healthier when parents have paid sick days and businesses benefit because workers recover faster and their workplaces are healthier and more productive.”

David Broder, President of SEIU Virginia 512, closed with a call for bipartisan cooperation on policies to support working families. “The conversation about sparking economic growth cannot continue to be a one-sided discussion about how much money we'd like to give away as corporate welfare this year,” said Broder. “Economic growth comes from the middle out, not the top down. Policies designed to support working families have got to be a part of that conversation. Compromise isn't a bad word. We hope leadership in both houses won’t reject out of hand, without conversation, policies to support working families. We're eager to work with anyone who wants to come to the table to develop strategies to support economic opportunity and security for working families, but continuing to rely on the same old corporate welfare policies will only get us what we've always gotten – handouts to big corporations that all to often don't pass the benefits along to their workers.”