As part of SiX’s 2018 #FightingForFamilies Week of Action, Erica Williams, the Director of State Policy Initiatives with the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, wrote a guest blog emphasizing how state governments can move away from tax cuts for the wealthy, and raise and spend tax revenue in ways that profoundly affect families and communities.
By Erica Williams
Choices states make about investing in schools, health care, child care, and other services can either help create opportunity and prosperity for people or hold them back. State policymakers can build broad prosperity and thriving communities by #FightingForFamilies with essential public investments that help us tap every individual’s potential.
Unfortunately, the new federal tax overhaul is a reminder of how much work we have to do to realize our vision of a just and equitable economy. Our states’ tax systems tilt too heavily to the wealthy and powerful, hurt working people and those struggling to get by, and reflect and reinforce barriers to economic opportunity that result from this country’s long history of racial oppression. All too often, we ask the most from those with the least, fail to make the types of public investments that dismantle barriers to opportunity, and make important fiscal policy decisions without transparency or input from those most affected — namely low-income communities and communities of color.
It’s time to ensure that lawmakers have access to real information and real solutions for America’s working families. Our four-point fiscal policy blueprint maps out how state lawmakers can build thriving state economies: Invest in good schools in every community, family economic supports, health coverage, and high-quality infrastructure, and help ensure long-term tax fairness by cleaning up the tax code.
To build thriving communities and economies, state lawmakers can:
- Invest in education and health to unleash residents’ potential and boost productivity. Instead of expensive tax breaks and giveaways for the wealthy, states like Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Oklahoma may follow successful efforts in California, Kansas, and Minnesota to raise revenue for education. After years, even decades of underfunding, it’s time to re-invest in early learning, smaller class sizes, and improved teacher quality to boost education outcomes, especially for students of color and low-income students.
- Launch public infrastructure projects to create jobs, spur growth, and promote equity. Several states have made significant new investments in their transportation infrastructure, including California last year. Building and repairing roads, bridges, public transit, school buildings, and other physical assets creates jobs and can also promote equity when targeted to communities with the greatest need.
- Boost household incomes for shared prosperity. States can help families make ends meet and improve children’s life chances with state earned income tax credits (EITCs) and higher minimum wages. Progressive efforts are ramping up even in southern and conservative states like Virginia, Georgia, and West Virginia to expand Medicaid and the EITC. Lawmakers also can remove barriers to work by providing child care and transportation assistance, and by reducing incarceration and taking an inclusive approach to immigrants.
- Clean up the tax code. States should do more to scrap ineffective, special interest tax breaks, incentives, and loopholes. Legislators could support efforts, like those in Oregon and Arizona, that will make the tax code more transparent and ask the wealthiest to pay their share of education, income supports, and infrastructure projects.
This agenda is ambitious. That’s why the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) is excited to work with stakeholders across the country who put families first as they advance policies that promote economic opportunity and stability. The 2018 #FightingForFamilies Week of Action is a demonstration of our shared values and belief that the most important thing states can do is to drive broadly shared prosperity.
In 2018, CBPP, along with more than 40 state-based budget and tax policy organizations we support, is dedicated to providing unassailable research and insightful analysis that can change the discussion in state legislatures on key issues ranging from tax cuts for the wealthy to how we invest in the building blocks that help working families thrive.
Everyone in America — regardless of where they were born, the state where they live, the color of their skin, or the size of their bank account — should have the opportunity to achieve their goals. But ensuring broad opportunity and prosperity won’t happen by chance, which is why we are committed to fight for families and communities with smart state fiscal policies that build a better future for all state residents.
Erica Williams is Director of State Policy Initiatives with the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities State Fiscal Policy division. Erica oversees several of the division’s policy initiatives including on state earned income tax credits, poverty reduction, juvenile justice, immigration, and racial, gender, and economic equity.