Category Archives: child care

Again With Splitting the Baby?

For the second time in three months, a prominent Democratic officeholder has described the debate over when to end Vermont’s transitional housing program as “splitting the baby.” In mid-November it was outgoing House Human Services Committee chair Rep. Ann Pugh, interrupting a housing advocate to say “I’m looking for your recommendations as to splitting the baby. What are our priorities?”

Yesterday, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Jane Kitchel cast herself in the role of King Solomon on the same issue: “I feel a bit like Solomon here. How do you split the baby?”

After the jump I’m going to get all exegetical on the Solomon comparison, but first let’s take a look at the product of Kitchel’s wisdom.

The Scott administration’s proposed 2023 budget adjustment would have ended the program on March 31. The House version included $21 million to keep the program going through June 30.

Kitchel? Her version extends the full program through the end of May and trims eligibility in June. The difference between her version and the House’s? About $2 million, per VTDigger.

Two million.

Is that what the administration has come to? It needs some sort of victory so badly that it seems willing to spend $19 million out of the House’s $21 million? (The admin hasn’t officially committed, but I doubt that Kitchel would have approved a plan that the governor wouldn’t sign. She’s the one who wanted to “split the baby,” after all.)

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An Investment is an Investment Except When It’s Not

Gov. Phil Scott delivered a budget address full of “investments’ in Vermont’s future. It’s a great concept, but he fails to apply it consistently. Public sector expenditures he favors are “investments,” but other stuff is just wasteful spending.

The most recent example of this came with the release of a new report on the costs of improving Vermont’s wretched “system” of child care. (As with health care, it’s not so much a “system” as an abstract sculpture made of chicken wire and spit.) The RAND Corporation figures the price tag is between $179 million and $279 million, depending on how generous the package is.

Scott spox Jason Maulucci offered the usual bromide: Scott really, really cares about child care, just not enough to raise any revenue for the purpose. It’s the governor’s customary Susan Collins kind of caring.

The assertion underlying Scott’s position is this: Raising revenue for child care is pretty much exactly like putting tax dollars in a big pile and setting it on fire. Trouble is, there’s all kinds of evidence that improved child care would more than pay for itself — both in short-term economic growth and longer-term outcomes for kids.

You might even say it’s a bargain. Well, I’d say so.

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In Which Let’s Grow Kids Suddenly Discovers That Phil Scott’s Child Care Advocacy is Mostly Lip Service

Let’s Grow Kids” has been around the block a few times. It is, according to VTDigger’s Final Reading, “the state’s leading child care advocacy group.” There’s no way they don’t know the score.

How to explain, then, that LGK endorsed Gov. Phil Scott for re-election and did not endorse his Democratic challenger Brenda Siegel?

If you come up with an explanation for that, then riddle me this: How is it that LGK is shocked and disappointed that the governor still holds to his consistent position — that he wants to do something to improve child care but he won’t sign on to tax hikes or LGK’s benchmarks for progress? In the words of VTDigger’s Final Reading:

Scott has long called for additional investments in child care, but never on the scale that advocates argue will be necessary to make a real dent in the problem. Crucially, he’s remained consistent in his belief that the state does not need to levy new broad-based taxes to expand access.

Key words: “remained consistent.” His stance cannot possibly be a surprise to LGK leadership or anyone else who’s been paying attention. It couldn’t have been a surprise when LGK was deciding on its endorsements last year. It’s not only his approach to child care; it’s his default on any social issue. He acknowledges the need, but refuses to commit actual resources to the task. Or actual effort, for that matter.

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