Governor Peter Shumlin’s plan to finance a major expansion of child care programs is sharply dividing Vermont’s early childhood community.
Within the state’s early childhood community, there’s almost unanimous support for the Governor’s plan to significantly increase funding for child care subsidies and to boost rates for providers. But there’s a huge disagreement over how to pay for the initiative.
The Governor wants to pay for the plan by taking $17 million from a tax credit program for low income working people. It’s a funding plan that has encountered a fair amount of opposition at the Statehouse.
Julie Coffey is the executive director of the Building Bright Futures Council. She supports the governor’s approach because she says it’s critical to put more money into child care programs.
"The time is now when tough decisions are being made and it’s the time to prioritize and we appreciate the Governor’s commitment to prioritize early childhood investments. That’s where we stand."
Jody Marquis operates an independent child care center in Newport. She supports the governor’s plan because she says Shumlin has made it very clear that raising taxes is not an option to pay for the expansion of childcare services.
"We are all being asked as society to look at budgets and not spend more and not raise taxes highly this is the best way to take those funds and redistribute them in a way that people get a better return on their investment with what they paid for."
Sheila Reed is the Associate Director of Voices for Vermont’s Children. She says it’s a false choice to say that the tax credit program is the only way to finance the childcare initiative.
"We consider that no choice at all. It is not a choice that we are willing to make on behalf of children in this state," said Reed. "And we don’t think we should have to we think there are other ways to raise money for the childcare financial assistance program."
And Reed says that it’s very unfortunate that the Governor’s financing plan has sharply divided groups that are usually strong allies in budget debates involving children.
"I think this has been very detrimental to our early childhood community," said Reed. "I think people are very, very uncomfortable with this choice. They’ve come down on one side or another but not happily and I think that it’s been very, very hard."
The Senate Finance committee will be looking at this issue in the coming weeks. Committee chairman Tim Ashe says he’ll strongly oppose the Governor’s plan to scale back the Earned Income Tax Credit program as the way to pay for an expansion of child care services.