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Ben Wikler: Make Biden's expanded child tax credit permanent

Ben Wikler: Make Biden's expanded child tax credit permanent

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Andrea Gaines, of Madison, speaks during a press conference in July calling for the extension of the child tax credit. Gaines, a working mom with children ages 6 and 8, said she works "paycheck to paycheck" and could use the money to pay for household basics.

Parenthood is wonderful, and it’s exhausting. As a father of three young kids, I can speak from experience. Even in the best of times, it can feel like something has to give — and financial pressures can make that feeling even worse. 

But this week, something extraordinary will happen in Wisconsin and across the country: families with children under 18 will see the second round of monthly payments from the expanded child tax credit — a credit made possible by President Joe Biden and Democrats’ American Rescue Plan. 

The expanded child tax credit took the existing tax benefit from $2,000 up to $3,000 per child ($3,600 for children under age 6) and made the credit fully refundable so low-income families can now receive the same credit as middle-income families. And, critically, made it monthly — so families can use it to cover routine expenses, and budget for it as a part of their everyday life. 

I’ve had the opportunity to connect with parents from across the state to hear about how these tax cuts will benefit them. If I had to sum up their reactions in one word? Relief. Sometimes to the point of tears. 

Parents are overjoyed to receive this much-needed tax cut from the federal government. It’s enough money — the average Wisconsin family will now receive over $400 a month — to make a meaningful difference in families’ economic freedoms and security. Parents have told me about how, for the first time, they don’t have to say “no” to their kids about joining a sports team, because now they can afford the uniforms and equipment — or how they can now pay for tutoring for a child with a learning disability. These dollars will change lives. 

From bringing low-income families out of poverty to sustaining the middle class, this policy will benefit 1.2 million children in Wisconsin — including 351,000 children of color. That’s more than nine out of ten Wisconsin kids. It helps everyone because when kids succeed, we all succeed. 

Now, I should note what this policy is not: It’s not a tax cut for the wealthy or large corporations. This might be a difficult concept for Sen. Ron Johnson to understand. So, Senator, if you’re reading, let me break it down for you.

While Democrats were fighting for working families in Wisconsin, every Wisconsin Republican in Congress was working against it. All five Congressional Representatives — from Rep. Mike Gallagher to Glenn Grothman — played politics by opposing relief that would benefit their own constituents — in order to undermine a policy that would show our government can help people. Meanwhile, Ron Johnson was doing what he does best: working for his own self-interest. Johnson took a break from his anti-vaccine misinformation spree to label this landmark tax cut as “economic or social engineering.” Sure enough, Johnson voted against it, too. 

It’s worth noting that, while Johnson is opposed to a tax cut that helps families, he had no concerns casting the deciding vote on the 2017 GOP tax scam that helped his personal business. In fact, he held up Trump’s tax scam in order to insert a special provision specifically tailored to the type of business he owns. (As it happens, this provision also benefited his three wealthiest donors to the tune of a $500 million tax giveaway.) Excuse me, Senator — your hypocrisy is showing. 

This tax cut for families is slated to last for one year under current law. Thankfully, we have leaders like President Biden, Sen. Baldwin, Rep. Moore, Rep. Kind, and Rep. Pocan, who continue to put Wisconsin’s working families first — and are calling to make the expanded child tax credit permanent by passing Biden’s American Families Plan. Just like with Social Security, these Democratic leaders know helping families should be a long-term promise.  

The numbers don’t lie. This permanent credit would lift 45,000 children out of poverty in Wisconsin, cutting child poverty in the state by 45 percent. Reducing child poverty should not be a partisan issue. If you have any stake in the future of our country and world, investing in our kids makes a lot of sense. 

The families of more than a million children in Wisconsin are feeling a little less exhausted and a little more joy, thanks to these middle-class tax cuts. I encourage every parent in Wisconsin to hug their children and celebrate the opportunity to provide them with a better future — and then pick up the phone and call your representatives and ask them to pass President Biden’s American Families Plan. 

Together, we can better our country and state. As Gov. Evers always says, what’s best for our kids is best for our state. Let’s turn that shared value into permanent law. 

Ben Wikler is the chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

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