‘Childcare reaching a crisis point,’ State House tries to come up with answers

Feb 2, 2024, 10:41 AM | Updated: Feb 3, 2024, 4:22 am


Kindergarten teacher reads a book in class. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Two competing childcare bills in the state House claim to have a solution to the childcare crisis.

This week, we spoke to each of the bill’s sponsors, starting with Rep. Alicia Rule (D-Blaine). Rule’s HB 1716 would establish a Business and Occupation tax rebate for employers who provide childcare assistance to employees. It has bipartisan support but also a number of critics.

“Childcare is really reaching a crisis point for everybody. It’s not just that we are really struggling with childcare for those who can’t afford it, which is definitely an issue, but what we’re learning is that we just don’t have enough childcare spots for anybody, so this is a bill that would bring even more people to the table to solve the problem – particularly business,” Rule told us.

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The B&O tax rebate would apply to businesses that have either childcare on-site or provide childcare stipends as a way of putting together a benefits package. According to The Washington Observer, the Department of Revenue figures it would cost the state $170 million per year. And while Rule’s bill addresses childcare cost, I had to ask if it would in any way address the childcare shortage. She was – short on answers.

“There’s affordability, there’s access, and there’s quality. So we continually work on innovative solutions,” Rule said.

You can hear the entire interview with Rep. Rule here:

While Rule enjoys bi-partisan support of her bill, the main critique of it comes from a competing bill, HB 2322. This bill, from Rep. Tana Senn (D-Mercer Island), would require employers who receive preferential tax incentives from the state to provide childcare on-site or pay at least 25-percent of childcare costs for an employee.

Under HB 1716, Senn says large companies that already get tax breaks from the state would also cash in on the tax rebate and she doesn’t think that’s fair.

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“Right now a variety of companies get tax breaks, obviously, the biggest one we think about is a Boeing or other companies like that. It’s a value statement that we’re saying that childcare is so important for businesses so that parents can get to work. And businesses rely on those workers. And so let’s have it all integrated. So it’s a so integration is a win win. Businesses help employees with childcare, businesses get employees, and that helps more thriving economy,” Senn said.

The companies that would be targeted by HB2322 would be determined based on if there are employees there making $250,000 or more annually. The idea being that if the company can pay employees such a high salary, and enjoy tax breaks from the state, they can certainly invest in childcare.

Listen to our interview with Rep. Senn here:

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5-9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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‘Childcare reaching a crisis point,’ State House tries to come up with answers