Missouri Governor's Child Care Tax Credits Bill Stalled in Senate

Missouri Governor Mike Parson's child care tax credits bill, which has bipartisan support, is stalled in the Senate due to opposition from the Missouri Freedom Caucus. The bill's fate is uncertain as the legislative session nears its end, despite support from child advocacy groups and business organizations.

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Bijay Laxmi
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Missouri Governor's Child Care Tax Credits Bill Stalled in Senate

Missouri Governor's Child Care Tax Credits Bill Stalled in Senate

Missouri Governor Mike Parson delivered his annual State of the State speech to a joint session of the legislature on Wednesday, with House Speaker Dean Plocher and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe by his side. However, for the second year in a row, one of Parson's top legislative priorities, a bill creating new child care tax credits, is stalled in the Missouri Senate.

Why this matters: The fate of this bill has significant implications for the state's economy, as lack of accessible and quality child care can lead to substantial losses in productivity and workforce participation. Moreover, the outcome of this legislation may set a precedent for future policy initiatives aimed at addressing the child care crisis in Missouri and beyond.

The bill, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Brenda Shields, has received bipartisan support and was the first bill approved by the House this year. But it has faced opposition from the Missouri Freedom Caucus, who characterize the proposal as "welfare" and promoting a larger government.

State Sen. Bill Eigel said, "In this case, it's to give them something... In this case, it's well, we want to give away free child care." State Sen. Rick Brattin argued, "Government created all the regulations that literally decimated the child care industry, and now government is trying to swoop in to fix a problem it caused." State Sen. Mike Moon added, "I think it is welfare... We should be establishing an environment so our families can take care of themselves and their children on their own dime."

Despite the opposition, the bill has gained support from child advocacy organizations, chambers of commerce, and business groups. Casey Hanson, director of outreach and engagement at Kids Win Missouri, said she's trying to stay optimistic, but the session is looking increasingly like 2023. Democratic state Sen. Lauren Arthur has been in ongoing conversations with State Sen. Bill Eigel about finding a compromise between his desire for personal property tax cuts and her child care tax credits.

A 2021 U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation study found that lack of accessible and quality child care forced many Missouri parents to change or leave their workplace, costing the state more than $1.3 billion annually. Almost half of Missouri's children under age five, or about 202,000 children, live in child care deserts with one or fewer child care openings for every three children. The average cost of full-time center-based care for an infant in Missouri was $11,059 as of 2022, according to Child Care Aware. Staff at child care facilities often make just over minimum wage, presenting a challenge to hiring and retention.

With the legislative session ending at 6 p.m. on Friday, the odds of the bill making it to the governor's desk are slim. A Senate bill hoping to make it more difficult to amend the state's constitution by way of citizen-led initiative petition is likely to cause strife between parties in the last week of session, potentially halting any other legislation from moving forward. The fate of Governor Parson's child care tax credits proposal remains uncertain as the clock ticks down on the 2024 legislative session.

Key Takeaways

  • MO Governor Mike Parson's child care tax credits bill is stalled in the Senate for the second year.
  • The bill has bipartisan support, but faces opposition from the MO Freedom Caucus.
  • Lack of accessible child care costs MO $1.3 billion annually and affects 202,000 children.
  • The average cost of full-time center-based care for an infant in MO is $11,059.
  • The bill's fate is uncertain with the legislative session ending on Friday.