Missouri Senate’s Freedom Caucus criticizes House bill for child care tax credits

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(The Center Square) – Legislation creating tax credits for child care overwhelmingly passed in the Missouri House, but Republicans in the Freedom Caucus voiced strong resistance.

“We hear about the child care tax credits and all these sorts of things … instead of allowing people to be successful and not depending on government from cradle to grave, that seems to be the narrative that wants to be pushed even within our Republican ranks,” Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, said during a Freedom Caucus media briefing on Thursday. “We’re going to stop that. We’re going to try to make sure that they have the money in their pocket and not allow big business to drive this narrative.”

House Bill 1488, sponsored by Rep. Brenda Shields, R-St. Joseph, passed 113-39 and provides three tax credits. A duplicate bill, Senate Bill 742 sponsored by Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, was passed out of the Senate Governmental Accountability Committee in January. During his State of the State address in January, Republican Gov. Mike Parson praised both legislators for their efforts to improve Missouri’s child care.

This bills would allow a taxpayer to claim a credit against their state tax liability for 75% of verified contributions to a child care provider. An employer-provided tax credit would give a taxpayer with two or more employees a credit equal to 30% of qualified child care expenditures paid to a provider. It also would give child care providers with three or more employees a tax credit equal to the employer’s withholding tax and up to 30% of the provider’s capital expenditures.

Shields said Missouri’s child care industry is in crisis.

“We only have one slot for every three children across the state,” Shields said. “So we have to build capacity. It’s going to take us a while.”

Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Springs and a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, said the Freedom Caucus supports child care.

“What we don’t support are tax credit programs that just lead government into one more aspect of our economy and one more aspect of our culture where we’re getting government involved where it doesn’t need to be involved,” Eigel said. “I disagreed vehemently with Governor Parson on this issue. … I have never been a fan of tax credits in the first place because that is exactly the process where government is giving benefits to some people in the population, but not everybody.”

Shields said research found 20% of parents have left work because the family couldn’t find reliable child care and 60% of business said they have difficulty retaining and recruiting employees due to child care shortages. Arthur said the governor’s endorsement will immediately draw attention.

“These are his bills and for that reason there’s a target on them,” Arthur said. “Again, this is not about policy. It’s about power. It’s about who is going to leverage that issue. Even if it’s about politics, the reality is in campaigns the things voters are looking for are lawmakers who helped improve their lives. With child care as their number one issue and with overwhelming support for addressing that issue through legislation, I’m hopeful voters will make their will known on the issue and vote for people who want to make a difference and supporting their child care efforts.”

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