Panel’s Revisions Cloud Future Course of Child-Care Bill

By Deborah L. Cohen — September 13, 1989 3 min read

Washington--Staking its claim over child-care legislation in the House, the Ways and Means Committee voted last week to substitute tax credits and block-grant funds for a program of child-care subsidies included in a bill cleared by the Education and Labor Committee.

Following the action by the tax-writing panel, it was unclear whether the original or the amended version of HR 3, “the early-childhood education and development act,” would proceed to the House floor.

Committee aides said House leaders were expected to encourage the two panels to work out a compromise to resolve the dispute, which appears to center on both jurisdictional and philosophical concerns.

“I think they will encourage us to work out something, as opposed to having to pick and choose,” an Education and Labor Committee aide said.

If no agreement is reached, the Rules Committee could opt to send one version of the measure to the floor and allow the other to be offered as an amendment, according to a member of that panel’s staff.

It is also uncertain, a Ways and Means spokesman said last week, whether the child-care bill will “emerge as freestanding” or as part of a broader budget-reconciliation measure.

Ways and Means Plan

The amendment approved by the Ways and Means Committee mirrors a child-care package the panel approved in July as part of its reconciliation plan. (See Education Week, Aug. 2, 1989.)

The provision would increase the amount of the earned-income tax credit, adjust it for family size, and offer a supplemental “young child’’ credit for families with a child under age 6.

In addition, it would increase funding for the Title XX social-services block grant by about $400 million annually and require states to earmark 80 percent of the increase for child care.

The amendment would replace Title III of the version of HR 3 approved by the Education and Labor Committee, which would allow states to set up a system to provide full-day care for infants and preschoolers and before- and after-school care for elementary-school children. The services could be provided through a range of child-care providers and institutions.

Termed ‘More Workable’

The Ways and Means version of the legislation “substitutes part of the bureaucracy set up by Education and Labor with a far more workable program,” argued the chief backer of the amendment, Representative Thomas J. Downey, the New York Democrat who chairs the Subcommittee on Human Resources.

Representative Bill Frenzel, Republican of Minnesota, concurred.

“The heavier weight we give to tax credits and the less weight we give to new bureaucracies, the better off we’ll be,” he said.

The Ways and Means Committee did not alter the other components of HR 3, which would fund school-based early-childhood development and child-care programs, increase Head Start funding, and earmark funds to coordinate existing services and promote child-care initiatives by businesses.

But the panel increased the share of funds for some of those provisions and added $75 million for an incentive program to help states improve their child-care standards and for child-development demonstration projects.

Members left intact a provision of HR 3 requiring states to have in place child-care standards in certain categories within three years of enactment, but modified some of the categories.

The panel rejected an amendment by Representative Nancy Johnson, Republican of Connecticut, to strike a provision in HR 3 that would bar states from relaxing their child-care standards once they began receiving federal aid.

The Ways and Means measure would cost $200 million more in 1990 than Education and Labor’s version, which has a pricetag of $1.75 billion. Some Republicans voiced concern that additional revenue would have to be found to meet the higher figure.

But Democrats on the panel--including Representative Marty Russo of Illinois, a member of the Budget Committee--argued that the budget resolution included sufficient funds to cover the difference.

“Rest assured we’re going to grab the $200 million,” Mr. Russo said.