LANSING – Recognizing the significant challenges that accompany a $1.8 billion state budget deficit, Michigan Catholic Conference today announced that protecting the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and maintaining adequate funding levels for state programs that benefit Michigan’s destitute population will top its advocacy agenda for the 2011-2012 legislative session.
“The Conference offers its agenda as an opportunity for dialogue and legislative action on a wide spectrum of issues that will advance the common good,” said MCC President and CEO Paul A. Long. “We look forward to working with state leaders and to participate in a constructive debate that will shape policy in Michigan for years to come.”
The Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit has been a major policy priority for the Conference due to its ability to lift low-income workers out of the stranglehold of poverty. According to the economically conservative Anderson Economic Group, the goals of the EITC are to “provide income support and reduce poverty” and to “remove barriers to work and encourage self-sufficiency.”
Those who receive the EITC use the credit in ways that economically benefit local communities. In tax year 2009, for example, according to IRS estimates, the fully implemented Michigan EITC will have added $7.2 million to the local Saginaw County economy; $3.2 million in Monroe County; and $4.7 million in Calhoun County. Statewide, an estimated $280 million will have been added to local communities through a fully implemented Michigan EITC.
“The expense of the Michigan EITC is mitigated by the amount that is spent in the local economy by those who receive the credit; therefore, the EITC has a dual purpose: to act as a barrier to poverty and an incentive to work, and as an economic boost for local communities,” said Long.
Just as protecting the EITC and maintaining funding levels for necessary state programs are critical, the Conference will also pursue policies that uphold the dignity of the human person, promote educational choice, grant preferential options to the poor and vulnerable, guarantee religious freedom, support the traditional family structure, and encourage restorative justice.
“It is our hope that this Legislature will work to defend the life and dignity of all peoples of our state, especially those living on the margins of society,” said Long. “At a time when Michigan’s unemployment rate continues to hover above 11 percent, we are urging those who craft state policy to seriously evaluate how any reform of state government will impact the elderly and frail, the poor and disadvantaged.”
Michigan Catholic Conference’s advocacy agenda was approved in December by its Board of Directors and released this week through FOCUS, a periodic essay distributed to all Catholic parishes, schools, institutions and other locations and individuals across the state. Below is a detailed listing of public policy issues that are of interest to the Conference in the categories of Religious Freedom, Human Life, Children and Families, Health Care, Education, Economic Justice and Regulatory Policies, and Restorative Justice:
- The rights of faith-based providers and all individuals to conscience protections in the delivery of services,
- The equal application of the law to all persons and institutions regardless of their faith, and
- Opposition to insurance regulations mandating coverage for abortion or contraception.
- State initiatives that provide alternatives to abortion and assistance to pregnant women,
- Legislation that seeks to ban partial-birth abortion in state law,
- Regulations on human embryo research, and
- Upholding the constitutional ban on the death penalty.
Children and Families
- Upholding the constitutional definition of marriage,
- Policies that protect the stability of the marriage bond and the institution of the family,
- Amending Michigan’s no-fault divorce laws.
- Protection of health coverage for low and moderate income individuals and families,
- Appropriate Medicaid funding to ensure adequate coverage for recipients and payments to providers,
- Legislation that prohibits abortion funding in all health plans, and
- Opposition to legislation that threatens the institutional integrity of faith-based providers.
- An end to the state constitutional ban on aid to non-public schools,
- Protection of non-public schools from excessive regulation,
- Mandatory consultation between public school districts and the non-public school districts located within their jurisdiction regarding the appropriate distribution of federal program dollars,
- Protection of virtual learning experiences and course content that includes dimensions of faith,
- Providing for expanded science and technology learning opportunities,
- Policies that seek to improve the quality of public education, and
- Preservation of the Michigan Tuition Grant Program.
Economic Justice and Regulatory Policies
- The allocation of scarce budget resources to preserve essential services for vulnerable persons,
- Affirmation of the recognized right to exercise religious conscience in the provision of publicly-funded services,
- Policies that seek to promote the dignity of all human persons, regardless of citizenship,
- Providing limited immunity for private human service providers for the provision of services otherwise provided by the state,
- Maintenance of the tax-exempt status for not-for-profit organizations,
- Affordable housing for low and moderate income families and individuals, and
- Affordable and accessible transportation options for low and moderate income workers.
- Adequate and professional legal representation to all accused individuals regardless of economic status,
- The right of faith-based providers in the delivery of services to incarcerated individuals, regardless of citizenship,
- Reforming and enhancing the provision of health care services provided in Michigan prisons, including end of life care,
- A comprehensive approach to prisoner rehabilitation and re-entry programs that includes continuing education, adequate personal identification, transportation, housing, and employment assistance,
- Sentencing guidelines and parole practices that reflect an individual’s potential threat to society, including amending Michigan’s mandatory minimum sentencing statutes impacting juveniles and certain drug offenses, and
- Elimination of life without parole for juveniles convicted as adults.