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Eye On Olympia

And more from this morning’s paper…

Trying to set up what the Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown termed an economic “one-two punch” to help families, lawmakers yesterday voted to launch a program that would send tens of millions of dollars in checks to some Washington families.

Because of the state’s slim budget year, however, the payments aren’t planned to start until spring of 2009.

Still, said prime sponsor Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver, the state should set up the system now at a cost of about $2.3 million. The state payments – which would initially average $85 a family, then rise to $170 – are “fulfilling our promise to our citizens who work hard and do follow the rules,” he said.

Senate Bill 6809 starts setting up the system for the payments, which would start at 5 percent of whatever the family gets as a federal Earned Income Tax Credit, the federal program designed to help the working poor.

In recent years, the federal program has provided about $600 million a year to 350,000 tax filers in Washington, with refunds averaging $1,700.

In places like central Spokane, one in every five families claims the federal credit each year. A family of four earning $40,000 a year can qualify. The smaller state checks, Brown said, would help both families and local businesses they would likely go to.

“It’s significant tax relief, and it’s to the people who need it most,” she said.


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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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