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National Grassroots Effort Underway Today to Make Taxpayers Aware of Vital Lifeline

In honor of Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Awareness Day, Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver on Friday urged Governor Christie to remain good on his State of the State pledge to restore funding for this vital lifeline for the working poor.

“I’m glad the Governor has finally seen the error of his ways and I hope he remains true on his promise to restore this critical instrument,” said Oliver (D-Essex). “For hardworking families, many of whom still live within the confines of poverty, this program has served as a tremendous lifeline. Since it’s inception it has been championed by individuals on both sides of the aisle, including the likes of Ronald Reagan, because of its proven success.”

“After two years and two vetoes, at least the governor finally acknowledges that his cuts in the EITC were a disaster to New Jersey’s working poor,” said Sweeney (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “Now that he is committed to restoring the EITC, we will charge ahead with getting this done. As Ronald Reagan said, the EITC is ‘the best antipoverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure ever.’ Those at the bottom of our state’s economic ladder desperately need the EITC, and when coupled with an increase in the minimum wage, we’ll be well on our way to ensuring fairness for all working families.”

Democrats fought unsuccessfully for the last two years to restore the Governor’s funding cuts to the program through legislation, sponsored on the Assembly side by Oliver. Each time, the Governor promptly vetoed the measure and veto override attempts subsequently failed due to a lack of support from legislative Republicans.

“I’m hopeful that by proposing this funding restoration, it signals that the Governor is slowly opening his eyes to the plight of the working poor,” added Oliver. “With stagnant wages, scaled back hours and poor job growth, the restoration of this credit must be coupled with an increase in our minimum wage in order for working families to survive. Before the Governor attempts to give more tax breaks to the wealthy, he must consider this valuable one-two stimulus punch for our residents that are struggling to get by from day-to-day.”

“In the recession, while the millionaires were getting richer, the working poor were being pushed closer and closer to the margin,” said Sweeney. “Reversing that slide is crucial to ensuring that everyone will move forward as the economy rebounds. Sadly, the governor and his Republican allies had a goal of rewarding the millionaires who didn’t need help instead of the families who deserved it. With his change of heart on this issue, hopefully the governor doesn’t have to threaten any of his Republican colleagues with a primary to get them to support it. The consequences of such political games are simply too harsh on the working poor.”

EITC Awareness Day is a national grassroots effort spotlighting the potentially life-changing tax credit in order to make hardworking families aware of their eligibility. The EITC can put up to $5,751 into the pockets of eligible taxpayers and even more if they live in a state with a similar state credit, which is what legislative Democrats are urging the Governor to restore.

Sweeney and Oliver urged eligible New Jersey residents to apply for the tax credit this year and for anyone who is unsure of their eligibility status to contact the IRS at: 1-800-906-9887. Anyone earning $49,078 or less from wages, self-employment or farming in 2011 should see if they qualify. Eligible workers must file federal income tax returns-even if they are not required to file-and specifically must claim the credit to get it.

Sweeney and Oliver noted that many people will qualify for the first time this year due to economic changes in their income or changes in their marital or parental statuses according to the IRS. The agency estimates four out of five eligible workers currently claim their EITC.