RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia parents from across the Commonwealth and the Tax Fairness for Virginia Coalition today held a virtual press conference calling on Governor Glenn Youngkin and legislators to prioritize parents in upcoming budget negotiations.
On Monday, April 4, Virginia legislators will assemble in Richmond for a special session called by the Governor. In advance of the special session, the Tax Fairness for Virginia Coalition and parents unveiled a three-point “Prioritize Parents Plan” that they are asking Governor Youngkin and legislators to adopt:
- A refundable state Earned Income Tax Credit to help families who are on the tightest budgets. About 600,000 working families in Virginia receive the federal EITC, and many of these families would benefit from a refundable state EITC. Of the 30 states plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico that have state EITCs, Virginia is one of just a handful that places tight limits on the credit. A fully refundable Earned Income Tax Credit is the single most important tax policy on the table because it’s designed to help families who are living paycheck to paycheck. On average, a refundable EITC would mean about $500 in the pockets of families who need it the most. To put that in perspective, that’s enough to pay the water bill for about 7 months, or to buy roughly 6 months worth of diapers for a newborn child, or fill up the gas tank 10 times in a small car. Both red states and blue states across the country already have a refundable EITC. An EITC refundability calculator from The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis is available here.
- A one-time tax rebate targeted to parents so that families can make ends meet. The current one-time rebate proposal does not account for children. For example, a single mother with two children earning $75,000 would receive as much as a single adult earning $175,000. Lawmakers should also pay special attention, and learn from past experiences, to ensure that these checks actually reach parents with low-incomes. When similar checks were sent out in 2019, they were nonrefundable, meaning that over a million families with lower incomes who had no tax liability were excluded.
- Fully funding our K-12 schools. Lawmakers have underinvested in K-12 public education for years, with a marked decrease in response to the Great Recession. Since that time, state revenues recovered from the Great Recession and have been higher than expected in response to the pandemic-related economic crisis. The final budget should include the Senate’s stronger provisions related to teacher pay and additional funding for the at-risk add on program, which is critical for school divisions that have high levels of poverty.
“When lawmakers return to Richmond on Monday, they should advance a budget that prioritizes parents who are struggling to make ends meet,” said Ashley Kenneth, President of the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis. “We are calling for legislators and the governor to adopt a 3-point Prioritize Parents Plan: Making the Earned Income Tax Credit fully refundable, providing a parent relief rebate that focuses on families, and making robust investments in public schools, including at-risk add on programs and higher teacher pay. This is about priorities: the budget will impact Virginia’s families, communities, and the trajectory of the commonwealth over the next few years. Legislators must get it right and prioritize parents.”
“With a significant surplus, we are asking Virginia lawmakers to step up for parents,” said Emily Griffey, Chief Policy Officer for Voices for Virginia’s Children. “If Virginia lawmakers can prioritize parents, they will send a message that Virginia is for families and deliver real economic stability from our state surplus. Lawmakers have an unprecedented surplus and an opportunity to balance relief to families and invest in our public schools. We are asking them to look at the long-term outcome of investing in our children and families and provide economic stability in these turbulent times.”
“I am a single mom to four children. Seven months after adopting my two boys, they were the recipient of subsequent physical abuse which then resulted in me making the decision to then become a single parent to protect them,” said Virginia parent Jessica Sismilich of Virginia Beach. “The long-term effect that that has had on our family has been that one son has had two long-term residential treatments, psychiatric services, outpatient therapy, in-home services such as therapy after school. I currently have people in my home six days a week to provide support around his needs as a result of the abuse. All of these services have meant that I am unable to work a traditional 9-5 job because I receive a myriad of phone calls from the school due to the ways that trauma is impacting their learning in school. That is one of the reasons I wanted to share with you today how the need for additional funding to include a [fully refundable Earned Income Tax Credit] would be beneficial and much appreciated.”
“Recently, I had to quit my job full time at a local Head Start program that I worked at for 10 years. I had to make this decision to focus full time on care for my mom, who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s,” said Virginia parent Brandy Ferguson of Franklin. “For now, this is where I’m needed, but I do plan on going back to work at Head Start later in life since teaching is my passion. I have definitely benefited from this recent [federal] child tax credit that has allowed my family to have extra income to help cover food, bills, clothing, housing, and gas to run my mom to all of her appointments. Since I took a pay decrease without benefits with my new job to care for my mom, the child tax credit has helped me stay ahead and not fall behind. I have seven children who depend on me, and I’m getting ready to be a grandmother. Life isn’t always easy, but thankfully, the government has recognized that and has implemented things like the child tax credit and earned income tax credit to help my family stay ahead. So I hope Virginia can step up and be there, too.”
“I’m a caregiver and a legal guardian of little ones,” said Virginia parent Tyran Green of Portsmouth. “I’m living check to check. I try not to complain, and I do appreciate all the programs in place for families in need. I remember during the pandemic and having COVID, I was severely ill and unable to work. So if I was struggling before the pandemic, now I’m drowning. The bills piled up. So when the [federal child tax credit] was received, it was like Christmas in July. I feel like economic disparity is a disease, and I caught it … I am encouraging, begging, and praying that lawmakers of the state of Virginia make a decision quickly to render relief to Virginia families.”
“It’s a struggle being a single mom who’s not making as much money as I need to keep up with the cost of living,” said parent Emily Smarte of Waynesboro. “When my child was born, I was working in the restaurant industry having to work two jobs at a time and it was almost impossible to keep up. Since then, I’ve worked really hard to earn raises and get higher-paying positions but the rises in the cost of living keeps outpacing the raises that I’m able to earn, which keeps me stuck in the same spot perpetually…There are so many parents and families who don’t have those basic needs met, and I would hope that our state representatives would prioritize meeting those basic needs first before looking for tax cuts in other places.”
Tax Fairness for Virginia is a diverse, multi-issue coalition of people and organizations that recognize the need for reforming how Virginia raises revenue. Doing so would make sure we can invest in our schools, in our communities, in our healthcare, and in our environment.