Hundreds rally to push child care bill across finish line

Published: Apr. 12, 2023 at 6:18 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - As Vermont lawmakers attempt to hammer out one this session’s biggest priorities -- a child care reform bill that would provide millions of dollars in subsidies -- hundreds of advocates gathered at the Statehouse Wednesday to make sure their message is heard.

On a spring day in Montpelier, upwards of 500 supporters of a sweeping child care bill gathered to cheer the bill across the finish line.

“We are truly on the brink of lasting and real change,” said Su White with the Quarry Hill School in Middlebury.

“This movement is a huge reason that my family chose to put down roots here in Vermont,” said Caitlin D’Onofrio with the Robin’s Nest Children’s Center in Burlington.

Senate Bill 56 -- nearly a decade in the making -- would raise wages for child care providers and increase subsidies for parents.

“My college degree was less expensive than child care for my daughter,” said Ilia Gilligan, a parent.

Wednesday’s rally featured dozens of child care providers, parents, kids, businesses, lawmakers, and even Kat Wright’s band.

“When we invest in them and provide the resources we need to take care of our Vermont kids, the benefits will be seen from generations to come,” said House Speaker Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington.

The House and Senate are still reconciling their versions of the biggest Democratic priorities of the session and to what degree they can balance universal paid leave and child care. To pass both, lawmakers are saying they need courage.

“We know that when caregivers in our state are supported and kids’ basic needs are met, we are stronger as a state. and look at you all here today,” said Rep. Emilie Kornheiser, D-Brattleboro.

But Governor Phil Scott is among those urging caution at what they say are lawmakers’ overly ambitious agenda. At his weekly press briefing, the governor said both child care and paid leave are not sustainable. He worries Scott the upfront spending on the programs will shortchange other programs that help working families including the child tax credit and affordable housing.

“We can do all of it in a way that doesn’t increase costs on already overburdened and overtaxed Vermonters, and without setting us up for serious and very real fiscal problems in the future,” Scott said.

But lawmakers say they have a mandate from voters to take bold action and that the measures will pass with or without the governor’s signature. “I believe S.56 will become the law of the land by the 4th of July,” said Sen. Phil Baruth, D-Chittenden County.

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