WASHINGTON (May 24, 2001) -- The U.S. bishops urged President George W. Bush to keep the refundable child tax credit in the tax cut bill the President hopes to sign in a few days.
The bishops' position was stressed in a May 23 letter from Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops to the President.
The letter follows.
President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I write on behalf of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops to express our strong support for a refundable child tax credit. We welcome the provision contained in the tax bill passed by the Senate that makes the child credit refundable to families with incomes of more than $10,000. Through this single provision about one-half million children are lifted out of poverty. While the Bishops' Conference supports a credit that would be available to every child regardless of family income, this Senate provision is far better than the bill passed by the House of Representatives.
Mr. President, in your eloquent commencement address at the University of Notre Dame, you urged the nation to face the moral challenge of so much poverty in our affluent society. You reaffirmed and expanded the scope of your faith-based initiative launched at the beginning of your presidency. The Conference of Bishops was an early supporter of the initiative and continues to believe in its promise. We believe that the refundable child tax credit and the faith-based initiative are complementary public policies. One is a response to a family's financial needs in raising their children. The other is a recognition that financial matters are not the only needs that keep people poor and that government agencies may not be the best ones to address those deeper needs.
The credibility of the supporters of the faith-based initiative might suffer if the administration is seen offering strong words on confronting poverty but then allows the only provision of the tax bill which directly helps poor families to be removed.
Our bishops' Conference has long supported refundable child tax credits. Our 1991 statement, Putting Children and Families First, highlighted "proposals to reform the tax code to help families cope with the high cost of raising children." We further stated that "These proposals, which have drawn bipartisan support, would allow middle income families with children to keep more of what they earn and would help lift low income families out of poverty. Such proposals deserve serious consideration and general support in light of the current bias against children in our tax laws, especially those in low and moderate income families."
As you work with House and Senate Conferees on the tax bill over the next few days, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops urges you to support the refundable child tax credit found in the Senate bill. Congress should not pass and you should not sign legislation which excludes this provision that helps working poor families and their children.
Bishop of Galveston-Houston
President, National Conference of Catholic Bishops