North Dakota House tosses bills for child care relief but aid could come later
House budget writers said they are still considering proposals to address child care shortages in the massive Human Services budget.
BISMARCK — Republicans in the North Dakota House of Representatives rejected bills that would have provided subsidies for day care facilities and tax breaks to parents, but legislative leaders say relief for the labor-starved child care sector still could come through the budgeting process.
In two separate 78-14 votes that fell mostly along party lines, the House killed Senate Bills 2237 and 2301 on Friday, March 17. Both bills previously won approval in the Republican-led Senate.
Senate Bill 2237, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Kathy Hogan, D-Fargo, would have given parents with household incomes under $120,000 an income tax credit to offset certain child care expenses.
Hogan said her bill aimed to help families with incomes between $80,000-120,000 that are generally not eligible for a low-income child care assistance program.
About 45,000 North Dakota households have children under age 5.
Proponents of the bipartisan legislation argued the credits would ease the strain of high day care costs and allow stay-at-home parents to reenter the workforce.
Rep. Jim Grueneich, R-Ellendale, said several popular proposals to slash income taxes for all North Dakota earners would render the child care tax credit ineffective. The Senate is considering multiple proposed income tax cuts passed by the House last month.
Rep. Zac Ista, D-Grand Forks, contended that the tax credits in Hogan’s bill still would benefit some middle-class families even if a broader tax cut passes.
Senate Bill 2301, sponsored by Sen. Ryan Braunberger, D-Fargo, would have used state funds to extend a federal pandemic-era program that issued monthly payments to licensed day care facilities. The bipartisan proposal would have given the businesses about $18 million a year to support the wages and benefits of child care workers.
A handful of the state’s child care businesses testified that the proposed subsidy would allow them to keep their doors open without raising prices for parents.
Rep. Jon Nelson, R-Rugby, and several other top Republican legislators urged their colleagues to oppose the bill, but they noted that budget writers are still considering funding to address the day care shortage, including programs like Senate Bill 2301.
Nelson, who oversees the crafting of the massive Human Services budget in the House, said appropriators will weigh a variety of proposals for improving the access and affordability of child care in the coming months.
Gov. Doug Burgum’s proposed budget features $76 million “to improve the affordability, availability and quality of child care programs.”