Local Lawmaker's View: Yes, Minnesota can have affordable child care
From the column: "The Great Start Child Care and Dependent Care Tax Credit ... would dramatically reduce the cost of child care for 175,000 working families in Minnesota."
Hard-working families are the lifeblood of the Northland and the backbone of our regional economy. But the struggle to find affordable child care poses a threat to our way of life. The economic strain of balancing work and family affects many of our households. I know firsthand, as my wife and I balance full-time careers with young children.
There’s a real challenge with accessing child care, in the Northland specifically, given the limited number of slots that providers have available. Minnesota has some of the highest child care expenses of any state in the country. In fact, on average, Minnesota families have to spend 20% of their joint income on child care costs. That is simply unsustainable.
The affordability challenges are forcing some parents, typically mothers, to make the difficult decision to quit their jobs and stay home to raise children. While I applaud stay-at-home parents and want to ensure families can make that decision, I do not want our families to have to decide between putting food on the table and dropping out of the workforce. That’s hurting our small businesses. When I hear from business owners struggling to find employees to fill open jobs, I can’t help but think of the capable people who felt they had no choice but to drop out of the workforce.
Other couples simply aren’t having children at all, instead putting off the decision until their incomes or savings are enough to make ends meet with young children. Many are finding that day never comes. The birthrate in Minnesota has plummeted, decreasing by one-fifth in just 15 years.
Families and would-be parents deserve better. They need options.
That’s why I authored the Great Start Child Care and Dependent Care Tax Credit, which would dramatically reduce the cost of child care for 175,000 working families in Minnesota by covering a significant amount of child care costs. Families with kids 5 and younger would benefit especially. Under my proposal, a two-income household with a combined income of $65,000 with a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old would receive about $10,000 in tax credits per year to help them afford their child care needs.
My bill has received widespread bipartisan support, including one of my co-authors, Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, who serves alongside me on the Taxes Committee where our bill was heard. We must find ways to work together across the aisle on common-sense solutions to the challenges we face. This bill would address two of our biggest challenges: burdensome costs on our families and workforce shortages for our business community.
Like working families, policymakers have a choice to make. Unlike the one facing households, our decision is not a difficult one. A child care tax credit is good for individuals and businesses, for cities and small towns, and for parents and children. With a healthy state budget surplus and widespread agreement, we can make progress on this issue. The time is now.
Sen. Grant Hauschild, DFL-Hermantown, represents District 3 in the Minnesota Senate. He wrote this for the News Tribune.