Vt. lawmakers at an impasse over how to pay for $150M child care bill

Published: May. 10, 2023 at 10:19 AM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - The clock is ticking on the final days of the legislative session and Vermont Democrats in the House and Senate are at an impasse over how to pay for their biggest priority -- child care.

They’ve been developing a $150-million plan to shore up the system but they’re still debating how to raise the funds.

The House Ways and Means Committee advanced a plan Tuesday to increase the personal and corporate income tax, but the Senate is opposed to that idea and is instead proposing a payroll tax, which they say can earn support from both chambers.

Top lawmakers say time is running out to find common ground. “If you go back over the last 10 years, Democrats have thought about a large benefit program -- we have used the payroll tax for that legislation -- but none of them have made it into law. We now have the votes to override in both chambers,” said Senate President Phil Baruth, D- Chittenden County.

“What I’m hearing from our caucus and from constituents is that they want a child care bill, and I am focused on finding a path forward to making sure we get this bill to the governor,” said House Speaker Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington.

Child advocacy groups are pleading with lawmakers to come up with a plan. “It’s a significant piece of policy, but we need leaders to put their differences aside at this point and find a funding source. We can’t leave here without one,” said Aly Richards with the group Let’s Grow Kids.

Democrats this session have already jettisoned their plans for a universal paid family leave bill over cost considerations. House lawmakers say they will revisit it next year -- an election year -- and fund it with a payroll tax. They say they hope to reach a deal on child care and adjourn by Friday but there is still a chance that they might leave empty-handed, without either policy goal.

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