Democratic Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet still hasn’t made up his mind on joining the cast of thousands seeking his party’s presidential nomination to take on President Donald Trump in 2020, but he is headed to early primary state New Hampshire this weekend.
Bennet dropped that little tidbit on a press call Wednesday to announce his reintroduction of the American Family Act to overhaul and dramatically expand the Child Tax Credit (see press release below) – an effort he’s spearheading with Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and so far 35 Democratic co-sponsors in the Senate. Bennet says 170 Democrats are on board in the House.
Brown, meanwhile, announced Thursday he will not seek the presidential nomination. Still, the field is very crowded, including former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.
As for tax reform, will Republicans, who just massively slashed the corporate tax rate with the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, in any meaningful way back Bennet’s efforts to reduce childhood poverty and give middle class families some additional tax relief?
“My hope is that they [Senate Republicans] will come along, because there’s been a fatalism around here that somehow we just have to accept the lack of economic mobility we have in the country and the kind of economic inequality that we have in this country, and it’s not true. There are things we can do about it,” Bennet said.
“Unfortunately, we made matters worse because we’ve cut taxes by $5 trillion … and almost all the benefit has gone to the wealthiest people in America, so we’ve used our tax policy to exacerbate the inequality that we have rather than try to reduce it. This bill is an attempt to move in the opposite direction than that, and I think over time it will gain bipartisan support.”
Then RealVail.com asked Bennet if he heard from a lot of rural families in Iowa, another early primary state Bennet recently visited, about the need for better child tax credits and if that helped him make his decision on getting into the presidential race.
“It was a great three-day trip in Iowa,” Bennet said. “I’m going up to New Hampshire this weekend, so when I know something, you’ll know something. But Iowa was a lot like being in Colorado. I spent lots of time in rural parts of the state because I’m on the ag committee, and it was familiar people and familiar issues.”
Then Bennet made note of the high cost of living in Colorado’s high country, saying the origin of the American Family Act has its roots in nearby Rifle. Here’s his entire answer to the RealVail.com question:
“It’s interesting that you’re from Vail because the idea for [the American Family Act] really started to germinate when I was in Rifle, down the road from you, and I was at an early childcare center there and a mom said to me that she was happy the childcare center was there because previously they had to drive to Glenwood Springs in order to have their kids be somewhere safe during the day. And she said to me, ‘I work so I can have insurance, and every dollar I make goes to pay for this early childcare center so I can work.’ That’s the triangle that people are caught in – that are doing everything right, trying to work, trying to raise their kids, and in our state, all over the state, people cannot afford housing, healthcare, early childhood education or higher education. This is an attempt to say, ‘Look, we can help with that, and we can leave the decisions about how to spend the money in the hands of individual Coloradans rather than the federal government.”
Now, as promised, here’s that press release on the American Family Act:
Bennet, Brown, DeLauro, DelBene Reintroduce Major Proposal to Cut Taxes for Families with Children
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and U.S. Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Suzan DelBene (D-WA), today reintroduced the American Family Act of 2019 to overhaul the existing Child Tax Credit and make it a dramatically more effective tool for supporting middle-class families with kids and reducing child poverty. The bill was introduced with 36 original Senate cosponsors and 174 original House cosponsors, indicating a major show of support from across the Democratic Caucus.
The bill would create a new $300 per-month, per-child credit for children under 6 years of age and a $250 per-month, per-child credit for children under 17 years of age—increasing the credit for all children and, for the first time, making the credit fully refundable.
“I’ve met with parents across Colorado who tell me the paychecks they bring home aren’t enough to support their families, especially as the costs of child care, health care, housing, and higher education continue to rise,” Bennet said. “That’s because 90 percent of Americans haven’t seen a significant raise over the last 40 years. The American Family Act is a big part of how we respond to that problem, which I see as one of the central economic challenges of our time. This bill also addresses a problem we don’t discuss enough—child poverty—by cutting it by 38 percent. I can think of nothing more at war with who we are as Americans than allowing kids to grow up in poverty. I’m hopeful today’s strong show of support will move us closer to signing the American Family Act into law, because for the families we represent, that day can’t come soon enough.”
“All across the country, families are working harder than ever but have less and less to show for it,” Brown said. “Our bill would help put more money back in the pockets of working families and set children up for future success.”
“The American Family Act will help millions of families across the United States who are striving to provide the best possible future for their children,”DeLauro said. “In fact, according to a new study from the National Academy of Sciences, expanding the Child Tax Credit as we do in this legislation would reduce extreme childhood poverty by half. That is why we must push to pass the American Family Act and ensure that families have the resources they need to pay their bills and get ahead. Increasing the value of the Child Tax Credit, creating the Young Child Tax Credit for families with children under the age of six, and making both tax credits fully refundable would have a powerful impact on our youngsters’ health, their education, and their future.”
“Too many parents are facing difficult realities as they try to raise a family as stagnating wages, higher housing costs and student loan debt are making it harder for parents to give their children the opportunities they need to succeed,” DelBene said. “Strengthening the Child Tax Credit is a moral imperative that will help countless families in my district and across the country. By passing the American Family Act, we’ll be providing commonsense tax relief for working families and the middle class, creating a fairer system that allows parents to invest in their children’s future.”
The American Family Act would replace the current Child Tax Credit with an expanded version based on the latest research about what works to improve outcomes for children. The Columbia University Center on Poverty and Social Policy recently released a report that found the American Family Act would cut child poverty by 38 percent.
Specifically, the legislation would:
· Create a New Expanded Credit for Children under 6. The bill would create a new Young Child Tax Credit (YCTC) of $300 per month ($3,600 per year) for children under 6 years of age, up from the current maximum of $2,000 per year.
· Increase the Maximum Child Tax Credit for All Children under 17. The bill would expand the Child Tax Credit (CTC) to $250 per month ($3,000 per year) for children 6 years of age or older, up from the current maximum of $2,000 per year.
· Make Both Credits Fully Refundable. The bill would make both the YCTC and CTC fully refundable, meaning that all low-income families would receive the full credit for each child. The current CTC only begins to phase-in after a taxpayer has earned $2,500 of income and at a rate of 15 cents for every dollar of additional income. In addition, only $1,400 of the $2,000 credit is refundable. For these reasons, one-third of all children – 27 million – do not currently receive the full $2,000 CTC credit.
· Benefit the Middle Class. The bill would provide a tax credit for all individuals with children who earn less than $150,000 per year and all married couples with children who earn less than $200,000 per year.
· Index the Credit for Inflation. The bill would index both YCTC and CTC levels for inflation (rounding to the nearest $50) to preserve the value of the credit going forward. The current CTC is not indexed for inflation.
· Set Up Advance Payments on a Monthly Basis. The bill would call on the Treasury Secretary to set up monthly advance payments for the YCTC and CTC no later than a year after passage for taxpayers anticipated to receive a refund. Monthly payments would smooth families’ incomes and spending levels over the course of a year, helping them make ends meet during difficult months.
The bill was introduced with 36 original Senate cosponsors and 174 original House cosponsors.
In addition to Bennet and Brown, the following Senators cosponsored the legislation: Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Doug Jones (D-AL), Pat Leahy (D-VT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR)
The following organizations have endorsed the American Family Act: Center for American Progress, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Center for Law and Social Policy, Child Care Aware of America, Children’s Defense Fund, Community Change Action, Economic Security Project, First Focus, MomsRising, National Association for the Education of Young Children, National Women’s Law Center, Niskanen Center, Service Employees International Union, Zero and to Three
The following leaders in research and academia have announced support for the American Family Act:
· Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer, Co-Authors of $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America
· David Grusky, Professor of Sociology at Stanford University and Director of the Center on Poverty and Inequality
· Jane Waldfogel, Compton Foundation Centennial Professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work
· Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Courtney Sale Ross Professor of Globalization and Education and University Professor at New York University
· Dr. Irwin Garfinkel, Interim Dean of the Columbia School of Social Work, Mitchell I. Ginsberg Professor of Contemporary Urban Problems, Co-Founding Director of the Columbia Population Research Center, and Co-Founding Director of the Center on Poverty and Social Policy
Statements of support are available HERE.