What’s new: The Republican-dominated Wisconsin Legislature quickly adjourned a special session on Wednesday, bypassing Gov. Tony Evers’ call to approve a $1 billion package to extend a pandemic-related childcare program and additional state initiatives.
Driving the news: This isn’t the first time such a tactic has been employed; Evers has called for 12 previous special sessions with similar results. Democrats, led by Evers, have utilized these sessions to spotlight issues they believe Republicans overlook, from abortion rights and gun violence to Medicaid expansion and education funding.
- The proposed package would allocate $365 million to permanently continue the Child Care Counts program, set to expire in January.
- It suggests offering up to 12 weeks of paid family leave to Wisconsin workers starting in 2025, costing $243 million.
- The University of Wisconsin (UW) would receive an added $66 million, a measure to counteract the previous budget cut of $32 million by the Legislature.
Between the lines:
- Evers emphasized on social media, “We can do the right thing for our kids and parents can stay in our workforce.”
- Assembly Speaker Robin Vos criticized Evers for sending a survey to all legislators, questioning their stance on childcare needs, instead of engaging in direct conversations.
- Republican lawmakers previously nixed Evers’ plea to allocate $200 million for a new engineering building at the UW-Madison campus. Although they hinted at reevaluating this, proposals have yet to emerge. It is growing clearer that a proposal will not appear despite lip service to STEM programs.
- Republicans are proposing childcare reforms like creating a loan program for providers or decreasing childcare quality (reducing childcare workers’ minimum age and raising the children-to-worker ratio). Evers is expected to veto these, rightfully deeming them insufficient for the state’s childcare provider shortage.
The big picture: Democrats want the Child Care Counts program extended, which, from March 2020 to March 2023, funneled nearly $600 million to over 4,900 childcare providers. This initiative supported more than 22,000 childcare employees caring for upwards of 113,000 children. As the program expires, concerns rise over potential closures or scaled-back services of childcare facilities.