Big moves: in a twist of events, Senate leaders voted to introduce Gov. Tony Evers’ draft bill to support Wisconsin’s childcare providers. The bill, now known as special session SB-1, also includes a paid family leave program, further funding for higher education, and a workforce development program for the state.
Why it matters: Following what looked like the fall-through of Evers’ proposal on Wednesday, this introduction marks a significant turnaround. The Senate Committee on Organization greenlit the bill unanimously, 5-0.
Between the lines: The legislation seeks to prolong the Child Care Counts initiative, which financially backed childcare providers amid the pandemic, plus an extra program to help employers handle childcare expenses for their employees. This move plans to allocate a hefty $365 million to these causes.
Voices on the ground: Childcare providers have pointed out the pivotal role of Child Care Counts in preserving their workforce without escalating tuition fees for families.
What they’re saying: “There’s no question that Wisconsin faces workforce challenges… Some of the issues included in this special session bill need to be addressed sooner rather than later to keep the Wisconsin economy on track,” says Sen. Dan Feyen, also the chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Development and Technical Colleges.
But, but, but: Sen. Melissa Agard expressed shock over the bill’s formal introduction, mentioning she was privy to the decision once she got a paper ballot for voting on the bill’s introduction.
The big picture: Childcare support has been a topic of ongoing concern. Research from the Wisconsin Counties Association’s Forward Analytics suggests child care can take up a significant chunk, between 18% to 36%, of a family’s income in Wisconsin.
Other inclusions: The legislation also touches upon a paid family leave scheme, funded by payroll deductions, and pledges $200 million to construct a new University of Wisconsin-Madison engineering edifice.
From the Dems: Sen. Kelda Roys, known for criticizing the exclusion of engineering building funds in the 2023-25 state budget, remarks, “Today, there was flooding in the UW College of Engineering… The public’s voices may finally be heard in the Capitol, and I am ready to help these critical workforce measures move forward.”
What’s next: Both chambers, including the state Assembly, seem open to considering Evers’ proposals in future sessions.
Gov. Evers says: Despite his initial criticism of the GOP, Evers expressed hope in his recent radio address, “I’ll remain hopeful that Republicans will someday get serious, put politics aside, and decide to join us in the important work of finding real solutions to the challenges facing our state.”