The Yale College Democrats traveled to Hartford on Thursday, lobbying alongside state legislators for a tax credit reform bill aimed at refunding money to low-income, working-class families in Connecticut.
At a hearing of the House Human Services Committee of the state legislature, members of the Yale College Democrats spoke in favor of the Earned Income Tax Credit bill, a tax credit for low-wage workers that has recently garnered attention and support from state officials. Both the New Haven Board of Aldermen and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. have recently announced their support of the reform bill.
Eleven Yale students traveled to Hartford to meet with state legislators and advocate for an EITC for Connecticut. Emily Weissler ’09 and Hannah Oakland ’07, both members of the College Democrats, testified for the bill before the Human Services Committee, through which the bill must pass to reach the full House. Weissler, a lifelong Connecticut resident, said she supports the bill for political reasons, while Oakland added a more personal view, testifying about the people who register for the credit and how beneficial it is for them.
While Weissler and Oakland spoke before the committee, the rest of the College Democrats met with legislators, trying to convince them of the bill’s worth, as well as asking them for advice on future tactics to get the bill passed, Campaigns Coordinator Eric Kafka ’08 said. Among the legislators contacted were state Reps. Ryan Barry, D-Manchester, and David McCluskey, D-West Hartford, as well as Democratic state Sen. Donald DeFronzo. The College Democrats also met with state Sen. Martin Looney, the Senate majority leader who has worked with the College Democrats on the EITC issue for several months.
Kafka said the tax policy would be beneficial for Connecticut, as it has been in the other states where the EITC has been implemented.
“It is a win-win issue,” he said. “It not only helps those in poverty, but it also stimulates the economy. People who get the tax credit spend the money and spend it locally. It works to decrease poverty, stimulates the economy and provides additional incentive for people to work.”
But Bert Ferrara ’07, a member of the Yale College Republicans, said he is worried that an EITC would hurt taxpayers with higher incomes, who he said generally “finance” such tax policies.
“There are some disincentives to work there,” he said. “I’m for across-the-board tax cuts.”
The EITC was passed on the federal level in the 1970s by President Ronald Reagan and expanded under the administrations of presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. A supplemental tax credit has already been passed in 19 states, including New York and Massachusetts, giving workers additional tax credit. The amount of credit received varies depending on family size and income.
Yale College Democrats President Brendan Gants ’08 said the group has focused on this issue over the last few months because they consider it an important reform measure, especially for Connecticut.
“Connecticut is ripe for this kind of reform,” he said. “By some measures, Connecticut is the state where the gap between the rich and the poor is growing the fastest. This bill is really overdue.”
But the road to legislation is not an easy one, Kafka said. Even though the vote in support of the EITC passed unanimously in the New Haven Board of Aldermen, he said it will still take a lot of work to get the legislation passed on the state level.
“The reason it’s such battle is that the people who need the tax credit don’t have the political means to fight for it,” Kafka said. “This is an uphill push for legislation.”
The Yale College Democrats will continue to push for an EITC after spring break, Gants said. Yale student groups, including New Haven Action, and groups from other colleges across the state, including Southern Connecticut State University and the University of New Haven, are also working to pass an EITC in Connecticut.