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Democrats to push ideas on economy, education, equality, environment

POSTED: January 8, 2017 12:30 a.m.

For years, Democrats have faced an uphill battle in the Georgia General Assembly. But that is no deterrent to the priorities they have laid out for 2017.

It’s all about the four E’s this year.

“Senate Democrats will be focused on four priority areas in 2017: economy, education, environment and equality,” said Liz Flowers executive director of the Georgia Senate Democratic Caucus.

Economy

More than 18,000 Hall County families would benefit from a state-level tax credit that supports low-income workers, according to research from the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, infusing about $4.3 million into the local economy.

Democratic lawmakers are hoping Republicans will adopt an earned income tax credit as part of a broader tax reform package.

The tax credit is meant to incentivize work by supporting parents with dependent children.

Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia offer their own EITCs, which are modeled on a similar federal credit.

The GBPI reports about 1.1 million Georgia households, or 28 percent of all state income tax filers, received the federal EITC in 2013. Families making between $10,000 to $23,000 annually received the largest EITC value, and the average federal credit for Georgia recipients was $2,700 in 2013, the GBPI reports.

Democrats are also pushing for a constitutional amendment to create a paid family leave fund to provide up to six weeks paid leave for people suffering from disability, or to care for ill family members, paid for by a payroll tax of up to 1.5 percent.

And efforts to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, with annual increases tied to the consumer price index, remain a critical part of the state Democratic platform.

Education

Flowers said developing a Spanish education study committee as a way to improve bilingual and multilingual education is high on the priority list for Senate Democrats.

They hope to provide a more comprehensive foreign language education by expanding it to more grades.

Environment

Democrats are gearing up to oppose any federal changes to environmental policy under President Donald Trump, including deregulation of Environmental Protection Agency policies, public land protections and water quality issues.

Equality

Democrats hope the state will expand nondiscrimination protections, which provide legal cover to individuals based on race, color, religion, natural origin and sex, to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

And they are pushing for a law that would mandate equal pay for women by prohibiting employers from paying employees less based on gender. Employers would not be allowed to retaliate against employees that discuss their pay under the proposal.

“We are committed to improving access to jobs that pay well, great educational opportunities, being good stewards of our environment and just communities,” Flowers said.



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