- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 29, 2005

State legislators are poised to defend marriage as a union of a man and woman in several states nationwide where legislative sessions are opening. This should come as no surprise, given voters’ resounding mandate for marriage on Election Day in 11 states, including even “progressive” Oregon.

But state legislators nationwide should not stop there. We should all hope state legislators concern themselves with a much broader range of family-friendly initiatives that would help ensure more children grow up with both a mother and a father.

Specifically, here are three items state public officials ought to strongly consider in this year’s legislative sessions:

Reduce the tax burden on families with children. In recent years, federal policymakers have increased family tax exemptions (to $3,100 per-child) and tax credits (to $1,000 per-child) so parents are able to keep more of the money they earn to pay for various child-rearing expenses.

Regrettably, many state governments have been slow to adjust their tax codes to keep pace with these national family-friendly changes. As a result, some low- and middle-income families pay significantly higher state than federal income taxes.

In my state of Virginia, a family of four with an annual income of $50,000 now pays $2,147 in state income taxes and $1,474 in federal income taxes (after the standard deduction for married couples and all child exemptions and credits).

Accordingly, state legislators in Richmond — and elsewhere — should give immediately try to raise per-child tax benefits, especially for low- and middle-income taxpayers.

Eliminate state welfare policies that penalize marriage. Just as national policymakers have sought in recent years to eliminate “marriage penalties” in the tax code and in federal welfare policy, state legislators should do likewise. Whether rich or poor (or in between), children fare best when raised in an intact, married-couple family.

Not only should state officials promote policies that reflect this truth, but they should recognize that the federal welfare reform bill signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton enables states significantly reduce out-of-wedlock births to receive “bonus” funds for addressing other social needs.

Thus, marriage-friendly welfare reform is not only a good idea in its own right but should be a strategic priority in all 50 states since success in this urgent area can strengthen the ability of states to solve other significant social problems.

Support community efforts to strengthen marriage. Just as the Bush administration has recently launched a Healthy Marriage Initiative to encourage proliferation of community-based efforts to strengthen marriage, state governments should consider adopting similar initiatives.

Indeed, several states — most especially, Oklahoma (under the leadership of former Gov. Frank Keating) — have developed model statewide programs of this kind. These programs help focus public attention on the work of community-based marriage preparation and marriage enrichment programs (often run by faith-based and other nonprofit institutions).

Clearly, if we are to lower divorce rates throughout the U.S. — and make possible greater marital happiness — we need more community-level participation in “healthy marriage” programs.

The Alliance for Marriage applauds state legislators working to pass state marriage amendments in the coming year. As the authors of the Federal Marriage Amendment, we understand and appreciate the need for action to preserve the legal definition of marriage.

But we hope state legislators recognize that other policies — especially the three items identified here — are needed to strengthen families and ensure more children have the opportunity to grow up in a home with a mother and a father.

MATT DANIELS

President

The Alliance for Marriage (AFM)

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide