By Aaron Allen
The Seattle Medium
After the President declared the state of the union to be strong there are some in politics who beg to differ.
Freshmen State Representative Debra Entenman of the 47thDistrict is one such politician. For her first endeavor Entenman has introduced House Bill 1527 (HB 1527), a bill aimed at providing a tax credit for working families in the state.
According to supporters, HB 1527 will help bring economic sustenance to lower and middle-class working families by allowing workers to recover some or all of the sales tax paid as a way to increase economic security. The will create a program, called the Working Families Tax Credit, that is modeled after the federal earned income tax credit (EITC).
In 2008, the Washington State Legislature enacted a state-level benefit program called the Working Families Tax Exemption that was based in part off of the EITC program. The state exemption was designed as a sales and use tax remittance program. To be eligible, a person must have paid Washington state and local sales and use taxes, received a federal EITC benefit, have been a resident of Washington for more than 180 days for the year in which the exemption is claimed, and apply to the Department of Revenue (DOR) for the remittance. According to a bill analysis from the state Legislature, “the program has never been fully funded or authorized in an enacted state operating budget.”
Under HB 1527, The Working Families Tax Exemption program will be expanded and renamed the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC). The eligibility for the program will be expanded to include individuals between the ages of 19-69 with no children, students enrolled in an institution of higher education who are eligible for the state need grant, caregivers of elderly or disabled relatives, and workers who file federal taxes using an individual taxpayer identification number. In addition, the program will be administered by the Washington State Employment Security Department.
Entenman says her reasoning behind her actions is to bring much needed benefits to the hard-working constituents of this state.
“I am just simply bringing something back now that I think could benefit the folks in Washington state, said Entenman. “Our tax system [in Washington state] is very regressive and I’d like to do something to change that. I think this is just one way to put a little bit more money in the pockets of working families, working poor families in Washington State.”
According to Washington State’s Budget and Policy Center new census data shows that Washington was one of a handful of states where poverty increased between 2012 and 2013, while median income remained stagnant.
Experts claim these numbers shed light on the state’s uneven economic recovery and should serve as a “call to action” for lawmakers. Some of the statistics reveal that one in seven (about 14 percent) live below the poverty line, child poverty remains at around 18 percent as incomes remain stagnant while the cost of living is rising.
Despite being a first-year representative, Entenman is optimistic about the bill’s chances for success, as it had already moved into committee for consideration.
“I think I am having a little bit of freshmen luck,” says Entenman. “It [the bill] went to the finance committee so they’re going to consider it which is great.”
While the economics in Washington seems to be on the rise, advocates believe the recovery that we’re seeing in our economy is not being shared across all income groups and the data underscores the need for the state to do more to help people struggling with just the basics, such as housing, food, child care and transportation. Entenman believe this bill help bridge that gap.
“I just think that this bill will help so many people,” says Entenman. “Even though you may make the argument that we shouldn’t be rewarding people, they [state legislators] can see that this bill is helping people and they aren’t even voting against it.”
Public service is the choice Entenman made when she decided to run for office and with this bill she is doing all that she can along with her colleagues to bring about change in how this state addresses the issues of the working poor by putting a little extra money in their pockets.
“In thirty other states this type of legislation has been passed and implemented,” says Entenman. “They have it in California to name one and this bill helps working people keep a little bit more of their hard-earned money in their pockets.”