Monthly Payments for Workforce and Tax Credit
BISMARCK – Two bills relating to childcare have failed in the North Dakota State House.
Senate Bill 2301 would have created a childcare stabilization program to provide daycare centers with monthly payments based on their licensed capacity and the age of the children. The Industry, Business and Labor committee gave the bill a Do Not Pass recommendation by a vote of 11 to 3.
“Although the committee understood that there are challenges with the cost to provide daycare and how families struggle to pay for daycare, this program was not the right approach,” said Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Dis. 38, Minot. “It would simply pay directly to the providers without much accountability other than an annual report on how the funds were used to address wages and benefits of childcare workers.”
Ruby said the program was projected to cost $36 million this biennium and $37 million the next. Ruby said the state currently has a childcare assistance program that was funded at $34.7 million with just over four million in state dollars. He added that the governor’s proposal for this session is adding $37.9 million of general fund dollars.
“This bill is part of a package of five bipartisan bills that were introduced to relate to childcare,” said Rep. Josh Boschee, D-Dis. 44, Fargo. “I certainly appreciate the governor’s support in addressing childcare by including money in the budget, but the reality is there’s certainly some policies that we need to get involved in. We heard from childcare providers that the number one issue that they have is hiring and retaining workforce.”
Boschee said the average wage for a childcare worker is $11 an hour, and that any qualified childcare center would be eligible to be subsidized by the program. He added that most centers have plenty of space for more children but not enough workforce.
“The money proposed right now in the governor’s budget as far as I understand is just an earmark of dollars,” said Boschee. “It’s not tied to policy and what that money should go for. I think it should be a priority of this body and the legislature that we invest in the people who are investing in our kids. The childcare workforce is the one workforce that allows all other workforces to work.”
SB2301 failed by a vote of 78 to 14.
The House also killed Senate Bill 2237 which would have created a credit against income tax liability for childcare expenses for members of the armed forces who, along with his or her spouse, make a combined income of less than $120,000. The Finance and Taxation committee gave the bill an 11-3 Do Not Pass recommendation, saying with the legislature proposing a flat tax rate this biennium, those who need this credit will already be taken care of. Proponents said the bill would still help those who may be in a higher tax bracket and can alleviate their burden.
SB2237 failed by a vote of 78 to 14.