From left, Ealasha Vaughner, George Davis and Katie Jo Hug in front of the Colorado Capitol. (Kayla Frawley)
After a difficult year for working parents — during which 4 million working moms had to leave the workforce due to lack of child care — the recently completed Colorado legislative session brought some welcomed hope for working families.
Out of several historic legislative victories, one of the biggest wins for low-income workers and families was a major overhaul of Colorado’s tax code through the passage of House Bill 21-1311 and House Bill 21-1312. The recently-passed bills were championed by Rep. Emily Sirota (D-Denver), Rep. Mike Weissman (D-Aurora), Sen. Chris Hansen (D-Denver) and Sen. Dominick Moreno (D-Commerce City).
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This package of tax reforms will expand the state earned income tax credit for working families and finally fund the Colorado child tax credit, in addition to other provisions to support small businesses. These bills will boost incomes for hundreds of thousands of working Coloradans of all races, ages, immigration statuses and ZIP codes. The changes in the tax code will be paid for by eliminating several inefficient loopholes in the state tax code that state analyses showed aren’t creating jobs, growing the economy or broadly benefiting Coloradans.
In addition to groups like the Colorado Fiscal Institute, the Bell Policy Center and Together Colorado, parent leaders working with Clayton Early Learning, Spring Institute and 9to5 Colorado played key roles in advocating for this legislation that impacts their lives. By ensuring lawmakers heard their stories loud and clear, these parents helped give voice to hundreds of thousands of Coloradans and their children.
I want to highlight a few of the parents from Clayton Early Learning who mobilized their community, took leadership roles in the campaign, met with legislators, and held a town hall to remind us why tax policy matters to working families.
George Davis, a father of two, is a part of both the Father Building Futures Committee with Clayton and the Parent Ambassador Program. He wrote letters, testified at 10:30 p.m. at one of the hearings for the tax package, and supported a town hall that allowed for the opportunity for lawmakers to engage with working families like him. As Davis says, “Together, everyone achieves more.”
Katie Jo Hug, a single mother of two, formerly worked as a paralegal and has been a parent ambassador with Clayton Early Learning for two years. She supports policies that promote family economic security, which includes tax policy reform. She hosted the Working Families Town Hall, which highlighted parent stories and why working families care about tax policy. Hug was known to quote Henry Ford during meetings: “Whether you believe you can’t or believe you can, you are right.”
Ealasha Vaughner, a single mother of two, is in her third year as a parent ambassador and has been instrumental to the program. Vaughner has supported social media campaigns for fair tax policies, she spoke at a press conference for expanding working family tax credits, during the 2020 legislation session, she’s advocated for tax reform at the Capitol.
Vaughner co-hosted the Working Families Town Hall during the legislative session with Hug and presented with the Colorado Fiscal Institute to a group of parents on why families should care about our tax policies. All this while making sure her growing kids have the love and support they need to succeed. As Vaughner wrote in her testimony in support of the tax fairness package this year, “I’m not an expert on taxes, but I know that families like mine shouldn’t be paying more of our money in taxes than corporate business and the wealthiest people in Colorado.”
People who are most affected by legislation aren’t always given the same platform as special interests that can afford to pay powerful lobbyists and fund expensive media campaigns. But just as parents are the best advocates for their children, they are often the best advocates for their community. The Clayton Parent Ambassador Program connects Head Start families to state and federal policy by highlighting the leadership that parents naturally bring to causes that impact their lives.
Expanding and increasing tax credits for working families has helped thousands of kids. Kids whose parents claim tax credits like the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit do better in school and make more money later in life. Reforming Colorado’s tax code is a monumental and historic step in bettering the lives of working families across the state, and couldn’t be done without those same working families leading the way.
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