(The Center Square) – Republicans at the Wisconsin Capital are moving forward with their child care agenda that doesn’t include new money.
A senate panel heard testimony on six different pieces of legislation that would change regulations or rules for child care providers in the state.
Sen. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, said the idea is to make it easier for daycare providers to open up, or expand, and provide parents with more spots in daycares across the state as opposed to spending more money.
“These bills, as I mentioned, are not a silver bullet for the rising cost in the declining workforce facing the child care industry, and every industry in the state. However, it can help Wisconsin families find some child care slots that they’re looking for, especially in the more rural parts of our state,” Ballweg told lawmakers.
The Republican plan is in contrast to Gov. Tony Evers’ plan.
On Monday, the governor announced he will spend $170 million in unused federal COVID-19 aid to pay child care providers more. The governor is ordering the extra spending to keep the Child Care Counts Program up and running for another year.
He previously demanded the Republican-controlled legislature find $350 million to keep the program going for two years.
One of the Republican proposals, Senate Bill 426, would create a program where parents, grandparents or employers could save for daycare expenses tax-free.
“There’s been a lot of discussion over the months on who should pay for this? Who should pay for child care overall? And it’s been always my opinion that we should try to rope in the business community whenever we can,” Sen. Romaine Quinn, R-Cameron, said. “If the argument is they need workers, and their workers can’t go to work without having affordable child care, then they should have some skin in the game.”
Evers and other Democrats say Wisconsin is facing a child care crisis that is making the state’s workforce crisis worse.
Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, is not on board with the Republican plans.
“I think the reason that this concerns me is because I understand the need to address the crisis. I’m not sure that we’re hitting the nail on the head by doing this,” Johnson said.
The Republican package is expected to head for a vote in the Senate. Evers has suggested that he is not interested in technical or regulatory changes.