Gov. Cox’s budget asks for child care funding
Dec 5, 2023, 6:45 PM | Updated: Dec 6, 2023, 6:27 am
SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Spencer Cox released his budget proposal Tuesday, and a piece of it includes some money to help with child care in Utah – both the cost for families and the space for centers.
But some groups argue it’s a drop in the bucket.
The ask is for $5 million for a “public-private partnership” and another $4.7 million to expand the child tax credit. The proposal also includes $54.2 million for vulnerable youth, creating a total investment of $68.8 million in what the governor’s office calls “strengthening families.”
The total budget proposed by Cox was $29.5 billion.
The plan is for a bill in the upcoming legislative session to propose a creative solution. The state will use existing office spaces and pay to convert them into a child care center, contracting with a private business that would pay to staff it.
The bill is being run by Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, and championed by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget.
“What we’ve heard is that in the private sector, the gap remains because they’re not able to find the space,” said Sophia DiCaro, executive director of GOPB.
She said the details are still fluid, and the exact cost will depend on each project, but said that $5 million “could maybe cover one to three locations.” It’s not known yet how many children that might serve.
Child care advocates argue it’s not enough
Groups like the nonprofit Voices for Utah Children said they are supportive of any public investment in child care. However, they view $5 million as a drop in the bucket to address Utah’s child care needs.
“What we’re really seeing is more like $250 million a year would really make a significant impact,” said Jenna Williams, the group’s policy analyst.
Williams said they asked Cox for that and will ask the legislature for a similar number.
“We know it’s a big ask, but that’s kind of what happens when you’ve never invested in an area before,” Williams said.
DiCaro said the funding shows the state values families. She argues that there would be zero funding in the governor’s budget proposal for child care if the administration didn’t value it.
“I know this is going to be a tight budget year. And I think that this is a strong reflection of that priority,” she said.
“We’re trying to push toward solutions like that because we obviously have limited resources as a state and we want to do what we can to keep taxes low and to make sure our economy is thriving,” said DiCaro.
Expanded child tax credit
Included in that $68.8 million, is an ask from the governor for $4.7 million to expand the child tax credit.
Right now, a bill passed in 2023 provides a child tax credit of up to $1,000 for kids ages 1 to 3, this money would be used to expand it to kids from newborns to age 5.
“Does it pay for everything? Probably not. As you know, it takes a lot to raise children but it does provide a way to help a young family,” said DiCaro.
Williams said they would ask the Utah Legislature to make that tax credit refundable.
“If it was made refundable, families would be able to get a tax refund of their funding and be able to see some real impact for groceries and gas and kids clothes and all that.”
Williams said she hopes the legislature will recognize the economic benefit of providing child care.
“I think (child care) is considered to be a private family issue for a lot of people. I’m not sure people can understand how it connects to the greater economy, to family stability, to the birth rate,” she said.