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MD Senate Extends Anti-Poverty Measure To 60,000 Immigrants


A bill making immigrants eligible for an anti-poverty tax measure passed largely along party lines in the state Senate Friday.

After an at-times acrimonious debate, the Senate voted 32 to 15 to expand the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit to immigrants, including those without legal residency in the United States, by opening it up to people who file their taxes with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers, or ITINs, in lieu of Social Security numbers.

If it becomes law, the bill would make about 60,000 Marylanders newly eligible for the tax credit, at a cost to the state of a little more than $53 million, according to the Comptroller’s Office. To qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, Maryland taxpayers who are married and have at least three children must earn no more than $56,844 in a year. Individuals and taxpayers with fewer or no children have lower income caps. The new bill does not change these requirements.


During Friday’s debate, Republicans accused Democrats of giving in to “fringe” and “radical” organizations who had pushed for ITIN users to be eligible for some of the payments authorized by the pandemic relief package passed last week and signed by Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday.


“I'll be opposing this because this is another $60 million that the vast majority of Marylanders who follow the law and are doing everything right will be saddled with so that we can please political activists with their Twitter handles and a few small, fringe political actors,” said Senate Minority Whip Michael Hough.


However, Senate President Bill Ferguson said the bill passed Friday, which he supported, is about helping people excluded from the pandemic relief package.


“This bill came to the floor because the last vehicle that we had wasn't sufficient to help my friends, my neighbors, the people I care about and work with on a daily basis, fellow residents of the state of Maryland, many of whom who have suffered harder and deeper than any group in this state,” Ferguson said. “The reason that this bill is on the floor is because fundamentally, the biggest threat to the American dream is the sense of the other, and when we believe that this is a country where every person has a God-given ability to maximize their potential, the threat of the other is the fundamental breakdown of that foundation.”


In the House of Delegates, which has not yet taken up the bill, it already has prominent advocates, including House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke.


“Genuinely painful to watch Republican members of the Maryland Senate essentially arguing that children should not eat because of their immigration status, or their parents’ status,” Luetdke tweeted during a debate on the bill in the Senate on Wednesday. “It’s a morally bankrupt position to take.”


Hogan has not taken a position on the bill.


“The governor will carefully review the legislation should it reach his desk,” spokeswoman Shareese Churchill wrote in an email.


If it becomes law, it will take effect immediately, potentially before this year’s tax filing deadline.


Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom.
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