Topeka — Advocates for the poor and a mother of two, who worked her way out of a four-month stay at a homeless shelter, argued Monday for maintaining the Earned Income Tax Credit, which has been targeted for elimination by Gov. Sam Brownback and reduction by House Republican leaders.
Tosha Jansen-Conkey, a graduate of Kansas University, said that in 2007 she was divorced, bankrupt and the mother of two boys.
"My biggest reward is the love of my two children," she said, who are now 6 and 5.
She worked several jobs to keep her family afloat and lived for four months at the Topeka Rescue Mission.
Jansen-Conkey said the EITC has been crucial to her family. "Without this sort of relief, I may not have been able to get on my two feet," she said.
Brownback's plan to reduce income tax rates and slash business taxes includes eliminating numerous deductions and credits, including the state portion of the EITC. The House Republican leadership tax plan would cut the credit by half.
The Brownback administration has said there is widespread fraud in the EITC. In January, Brownback’s Budget Director Steve Anderson said, “We have no way of making sure, for example, that a single mother is spending that on needs for her children.”
But Sister Therese Bangert, of the Catholic Sisters of Charity, disagreed with Anderson's assessment.
She said low-income families use the EITC to pay off medical and credit card bills, rent, car repairs and other necessary expenses.
"The EITC has been studied and studied and showed positive outcomes for families," she said. A coalition of groups, called the Partnership to Preserve the Earned Income Tax Credit, said that more than 90 percent of Kansas’ EITC dollars go to families with children, and the average credit is about $360. The coalition said the EITC lifts more children out of poverty than any other single program and was adopted to help working low-income families offset sales and property taxes.
Bangert said she was personally offended that talk of tax fraud seems to only come up with the EITC and not the tax dodges used by wealthier people.
Jansen-Conkey, who over the past several years has worked at jobs mopping floors, selling cars and is now a legal secretary, said she received $735 from the credit this year. She said the credit has helped her buy a van and make a downpayment on a mobile home.
Removing the EITC would "be taking away too much from children who have too little," she said.