Earned Income Tax Credit Plan panned

MIDDLEBURY — Gov. Peter Shumlin’s proposed redirection of $17 million from the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program to help expand early child education programs drew some criticism at Monday’s Legislative Breakfast at the American Legion Post in Middlebury.
Shumlin’s proposal has come under fire from those who contend that reduction in the EITC benefit will hit low-income recipients the hardest.
“If you are going to fund programs that are popular, (the EITC) program is not the place to get the money,” said Weybridge resident Jeff Cobden.
Rep. Willem Jewett, D-Ripton, said the cut would hit a specific group.
“Cutting the EITC is really nothing more than a tax on those people who can least afford it — the poor,” Jewett said.
Sen. Claire Ayer, chairwoman of the House Health and Welfare Committee, said some members of her panel are adamantly opposed to Shumlin’s EITC proposal. But she said she can see some merit in ratcheting up assistance for early child education as a means of better preparing students to succeed in school and move on to good paying jobs.
“I am still open to the idea,” said Ayer, a Democrat representing Addison County, Huntington and Buel’s Gore.
Rep. David Sharpe, D-Bristol, said Shumlin’s EITC plan will “probably not fly in the House Ways and Means Committee, although we feel pre-K education is very important.”
But Sharpe added he and his colleagues continue to be concerned about “fiscal cliffs” — financial thresholds at which some residents determine it makes more financial sense for them to remain on state assistance programs than to work at low-paying jobs. For example, the availability of early child education could provide the support some people need to continue in their jobs, Sharpe reasoned.
“This concept of fiscal cliffs, where we don’t incentivize people to get back into the work stream, is a huge issue,” Sharpe said. “That’s the single biggest problem we have. If you make $1 too much, you drop off this program. Pretty soon, there’s no advantage to advancing yourself, and we need to change that pretty soon.”

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