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A contentious Farm Bill heads to U.S. House for debate. Also on our rundown: Gaps cited in anti-discrimination protections for small-business employees and nonprofit volunteers; plus power out for much of Puerto Rico; and some warning signs, that increased youth activism may not correspond to voter turnout.

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Supporters say EITC Boost Could Make Tax Time Less "Taxing" in IL

April 14, 2009

Springfield, IL – "Tax Day" is Wednesday, April 15, and some of Illinois' public policy groups are using the occasion to champion at least one way to make the state's tax system more fair. They're convinced that an increase in the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) could bring relief to low-income working families who are struggling to keep up with monthly expenses.

Sean Noble, director of government relations for Voices for Illinois Children points out that, as an overall percentage of their earnings, Illinois' low-income families often pay twice as much state and local tax as wealthier households.

"If we could grow the EITC, it would be a very targeted and efficient way of helping out families who struggle the most paying their taxes and, day to day, with other expenses."

The current Illinois EITC is five percent of the federal credit; it's also the smallest of the nation's 21 state EITC amounts. Quadrupling the state credit would mean low-income families would get to keep an additional $1,000. Those who oppose an increase say the EITC is already too generous, and is susceptible to noncompliance and fraud.

Advocates, including Laura Dean Friedrich, argue that extra money would go a long way to help poor families face mounting economic pressures. As director of education and advocacy for the group Protestants for the Common Good, Friedrich sees the state EITC as a way to boost the Illinois economy, simply by allowing families to use more of their hard-earned cash.

"Low-income families do not buy luxury items. They spend their incomes on day-to-day expenses - groceries, rent, doctor bills - things that are in the local economy."

Supporters of an EITC increase also believe it is necessary to offset other tax increases that might be necessary in the state's quest to erase the budget deficit and stabilize funding for crucial education, health and human services.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL