Elections have consequences: What can Minnesotans expect on childcare?

For many years prior to the mid-term elections, the lack of affordable high-quality childcare has been one of the biggest issues plaguing Minnesota families. The coronavirus pandemic has merely worsened that issue. Going forward, the childcare crisis is likely still going to be one of the top issues families in Minnesota have to contend with.

So, what should Minnesotans expect from a DFL majority government in regard to childcare? Very likely the same proposal that was flying before the election — more spending.

Democrats have mostly held tight to the belief that only more spending — or “investment” as they like to put it — would address the childcare crisis in Minnesota.

In the last legislative session, for example, House Democrats passed the Great Start tax program which, if passed, would have increased spending on early childhood programs by nearly $900 million.

If the proposed Great Start tax program became law it would provide a tax credit of up to $3,000 for each child under the age of five enrolled in licensed childcare, with a cap of $7,500 per family.

The bill would also give an additional 30,000 children access to more affordable childcare through an expansion of the existing sliding scale assistance. The plan would also pay for 20,000 more early learning scholarships.

The estimated cost of all of the changes in $850 million across the next four years. Of that, $200 million would go to extending the Stabilization Grant program that helped childcare providers stay afloat during the pandemic.

Even Governor Tim Walz, in his supplemental budget, proposed spending hundreds of millions of dollars of Minnesota’s surplus on early childhood programs. With a multi-billion dollar surplus, such proposals are likely to come back.

As American Experiment’s research has shown, however, increased public funding for childcare does nothing to address the root cause of high prices and shortages and instead drives prices even further by increasing demand for childcare services. In some cases, public funding for early childhood services has been found to have detrimental impacts on the development of children.

Minnesotans have made their choice. But that choice will likely come at a high cost, which is unfortunate for families with children, low-income families, the childcare industry, and the state economy as a whole.