by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
In the past, calls for fully refundable child credits have enjoyed considerable support from liberals while meeting with skepticism from small-government conservatives, on the grounds that they’re a form of redistribution. Yet the bill passed on the strength of Republican votes while meeting with resistance from Democratic lawmakers, who’ve denounced the proposal as an “election-year bribe.” Perhaps more interesting is the fact that some Democrats in the Assembly have objected to the proposal on the grounds that only U.S. citizens are eligible for the credit.
What’s going on, exactly? My sense is that the fight over the one-time Wisconsin child credit reflects a growing GOP emphasis on blue-collar voters, and also the Democratic party’s increasing discomfort with distinguishing between citizens and non-citizens when it comes to questions of public policy. Both tendencies played a role in the congressional debate over tax reform late last year. Republican champions of a greatly expanded refundable portion of the federal child credit met with intense intra-party resistance, but almost every up-and-comer among GOP senators signed onto the idea, presumably because they recognized its appeal. Most Senate Democrats, meanwhile, refused to join the effort, due in part to the concern that the credit would only go to households with valid Social Security numbers, which in turn would exclude children raised by unauthorized immigrant parents.