ELIZABETHTOWN — Third among Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s three dozen State of the State proposals came a pitch for expanding the state’s Child Care Tax Credit.
The governor’s proposal won early high marks with regional leaders waiting to see how the $42 million program would be funded.
“Child care costs have gone through the roof. Average child care costs for two children? $25,000 per year,” Cuomo said in his address in Albany last week.
“We want to double our state credit, which will help 200,000 working families pay for child care. And this program will have an effect, a positive effect for the entire middle class and it will have an effect all across this state.”
Called the Enhanced Middle Class Child Care Tax Credit, it would more than double the current Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit and benefit families earning between $60,000 and $150,000 per year.
The current tax credit offers a maximum benefit of 110 percent of the federal credit for taxpayers with incomes below $25,000, Cuomo’s office explained in announcing the proposed new structure.
“And the rate phases down to a low of 20 percent of the federal credit for those with incomes of $65,000 or above.”
Nearly 520,000 New York families received almost $189 million from this credit for tax year 2014, Cuomo said.
About one third — 200,000 families earning between $60,000 and $150,000 — would see their benefits double, on average, Cuomo said, from $169 to $376.
The child care cost relief plan, which has to be approved by both the state Senate and the Assembly, is earning early and earnest bipartisan support.
Senator Betty Little (R-Queensbury) supports an increase in the childcare tax credit for lower and middle-income families.
“For many people, wages and salaries have not kept pace with rising costs for everyday expenses, including child care. Having access to and being able to afford day care is a basic quality of life issue,” she told the Sun.
“The question becomes what is feasible within the context of the state budget. Can we expand the tax credit — and by how much?
“This is one of many proposals the governor made in his State of State addresses and we will be learning more detail when the executive budget is presented a little later this month.
“We’ll have a better idea of what the revenue picture looks like, where the funding will be coming from and whether there will be cuts proposed in other areas of the budget to make room for expanding things like this.
“The most important information for me will be what do my constituents think,” Little said.
Newly elected Assemblyman D. Billy Jones, a Democrat from Chateaugay, said child care is an issue that hits home.
“This issue is one that’s close to my heart. As the father of a three-year-old daughter, I know how important it is to have the peace of mind that your child is well cared for. Expanding access to affordable child care is not only good for our families; it’s good for our economy and the future of the state,” he said in a statement issued shortly after Cuomo announced the plan.
“Too many families, especially here in the North Country, are forced to choose between a paycheck and quality child care. We’ve got to come up with ways to help hardworking parents care for their children. I look forward to considering the details of the Enhanced Middle Class Child Care Tax Credit proposal as the legislative session gets underway.”
In the Town of Lewis where a new child care center opened last fall, Supervisor Jim Monty said Cuomo’s tax credit proposal is a good start.
“But more needs to be done. I feel with taxes going up and the cost of living on the rise, another step needs to be taken.
“One thought I had was for the state to develop a program to subsidize child care based on income,” Monty told the Sun.
And supply doesn’t fit the demand in this region, which is the main reason he worked with county planners to establish the child care center in the closed Lewis Elementary School.
“The cost of day care in our area alone is incredible, with the regulations and insurance needs, there are less providers than ever. I also believe some type of incentive for people to become day care providers would also help.”
The center in Lewis is doing well, Monty said of progress over the past few months.
“We are still accepting applications. If the governor could provide more funding for these community-based centers, it might be easier for parents to afford.”