Is it Arizona’s Turn?

It’s no secret that exposure during childhood to negative events called adverse childhood experiences increase a person’s likelihood of having long-term chronic or behavioral health issues like heart disease, violence, suicide, and substance use.  ACEs like child abuse, neglect, parent incarceration, substance use, or separation are often clustered.

Policymakers in many states are looking for ways to prevent ACEs… which includes strategies to strengthen protective factors like social connectedness, access to healthcare and community resources, enhancing parental skills to promote healthy child development, and providing quality care and early education, and reduce risk factors before they occur. Arizona took a step forward this year by passing a budget bill that will draw down more than $60M in additional funds to support affordable childcare in Arizona.

Leading evidence-based policies to prevent ACEs before they occur are usually linked in some way to strengthening economic supports to help working families out of poverty and reduce parental stress. One well known economic support is the federal Earned Income Tax Credit

Many states are recognizing that they can also play a role through their state-based tax codes – and implementing Earned Income Tax Credits at the state level. Arizona hasn’t done so yet.

Here’s how they work. The Earned Income Tax Credit is a refundable income tax credit that can be used to reduce the tax burden for low- to moderate-income working people.  The federal government along with 29 states have established them at the local level. Arizona doesn’t.

Economic support from Earned Income Tax Credits is associated with improved infant and maternal health, better school performance for children, and increased college enrollment. Research suggests they reduce risk factors for child abuse and neglect ACEs by offsetting the costs of raising a child among working families.

This webpage from the National Conference of State Legislatures has a host of information about which states have state based Earned Income Tax Credits and how they work. They’re usually based on a reference to the federal EITC.

State Earned Income Tax Credits are a promising economic support for working families that help to raise more than six million people—half of them children—above the poverty line each year.

Arizona lawmakers have long had a zeal for reducing taxes.  Perhaps next year they should look at taxes from a new angle- using tax policy to support an evidence-based policy a state based earned income tax credit- that will that prevent negative childhood events and bad public health outcomes.