Capitol Watch

In 2017, we're supporting legislation that will help children, youth, and their families access the resources they need to succeed. Review our top priorities below.

You can make a difference in the lives of children and youth in Minnesota right now. When you speak up elected officials listen.

2017 State Legislative Wrap-Up

On May 30, Governor Mark Dayton signed a two-year, $46 billion budget into law along with a $650 million tax cut package. The final agreement included a $463 million cut to Health and Human Services. Here's our review of the key issues covered in this agreement (or left out) that affect children, families, and the future prosperity of our state.

Child Care:

Lawmakers passed and funded a key change to the Child Care Assistance Program, allowing most families to stay continuously enrolled for 12 months at a time ($18.6 million in FY2018-19). This was a top priority for CDF-MN. Along with new licensing standards that also passed as part of the Health and Human Services budget, this change was federally required. The legislature still needs to pass additional family-friendly changes to the program (including a provider rate increase) to be in full compliance with the reauthorized Child Care and Development Block Grant and ensure continued federal funding. Though some of the funding is reinvested in CCAP, the budget makes cuts to the program through $15 million in program integrity changes and a one-time use of $18 million in federal child care funds. No new funding was included to serve families on the CCAP wait list. Lawmakers also passed $519K for community grants to increase the supply of quality child care providers, along with other changes to the provider regulatory framework. While child care investments were included this session that will greatly benefit children and families, far fewer changes were made than might be expected given heightened attention to this issue at the capitol, including through last year's formation of a House select committee on affordable child care, an interim child care task force, and this year's House child care subcommittee.

Early Childhood Programs:

The budget makes important new investments in early learning, including $20 million for Early Learning Scholarships and $50 million for School Readiness Plus, a new pre-k program prioritizing low-income students. While Early Learning Scholarships remain under-funded and are generally restricted to 3- and 4-year olds and their younger siblings, the budget makes children who have experienced homelessness, are in foster care or in need of protective services, or who have a parent under 21 pursuing a diploma or GED a priority category and expands their access from birth through age two. The budget caps funding for Pathway II Early Learning Scholarships and delays a requirement that providers accepting early learning scholarships be 3- or 4-Star Parent Aware-Rated to 2020. In addition, the budget increases Nurse Home Visiting reimbursements by $614K in FY2018-19 and provides $12 million for targeted home visiting for pregnant and parenting teens, nearly $3 million for Early Childhood Family Education, nearly $14 million for Reading Corps, and just over a million for the Parent-Child Home Program.

Minnesota Family Investment Program:

The Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) cash grant did not go up in this year's budget, marking 31 years without an increase in assistance for our state's poorest children and families. Lawmakers did include a change to how MFIP income is calculated, and will now disregard for 12 calendar months the earned or unearned income of a new spouse provided that household income remains below 275% of federal poverty guidelines.

Paid Family and Medical Leave:

Despite passing off the Senate floor last year, this year's legislature did not hear the bill supported by CDF-MN and others that would have created a paid family and medical leave insurance program. However, efforts to block local municipalities from enacting higher wage and benefit standards for workers, including paid sick time, were staved off.

Taxes:

CDF-MN advocated this year for two targeted tax credits: the Working Family Credit and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. The tax bill signed into law does not include a broad expansion of the Working Family Credit as advocated by organizations like CDF-MN, but does include a provision that will now allow individuals earning money on and living on Indian Reservations to claim the credit, along with another provision that reduces the eligibility age from 25 to 21 for adults without dependent children. The eligibility threshold for the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit will rise from just over $39K to $62K and $74K for families with one and two dependents (or more), respectively. The maximum credit for families with one dependent will increase from $720 to $1,050, and for those with two or more dependents, from $1,440 to $2,100. CDF-MN also advocated for a modest tax bill to ensure available resources for investing in other important areas of the budget, a position made stronger by uncertainty at the federal level around health care and public program policy and funding. We are disappointed that given these new circumstances, and with all the work we have left to do before every child in every corner of our state has the opportunity to thrive, that lawmakers chose to designate state resources for tax breaks for the wealthiest Minnesotans and tobacco companies.

In conclusion, this budget and tax package yields gains for Minnesota children and families that we hope will continue to make our state one of the best places for children to grow up healthy and strong. But we also conclude this legislative session having left work on the table, including the additional federal requirements for the Child Care Assistance Program, and with concern for our state's future resources and what they mean for our ability to continue to serve children and families in the years to come. As data from the recently released 2017 National KIDS COUNT Data Book reveals, investing in children and families pays dividends. We look forward to working with you in the coming months as we prepare to make the needs of children and families heard and a focal point of the 2018 legislative session.

Track the progress of our priorities here

2017 State Legislative Kick-Off

We strongly believe that our state has a moral and economic imperative to ensure every child is prepared to reach his/her full potential. With smart policy, programs, and investments, we have the power to change the course and change the odds for children being left behind.

In 2017, we're asking lawmakers to protect our state’s health care gains for children and families and a tax structure that opens the door to the middle class and economic stability. We're urging them to help advance two-generation solutions to family economic security that give parents the resources they need to move their families forward today while setting children up for success tomorrow, including:

Affordable, Accessible Child Care

Working parents need reliable child care in order to work and provide for their families, and when families have sufficient financial resources and children have access to stable, nurturing, high-quality care, they flourish from kindergarten to career. Child care strengthens our current workforce and the workforce of tomorrow, and in turn secures the future prosperity of our state. We advocate for:

  • fully funding the Basic Sliding Fee Child Care Assistance Program;
  • increasing the state’s reimbursement rate to Child Care Assistance Program providers; and
  • implementing family-friendly child care policies, including those required by the Child Care Development Block Grant Reauthorization.

Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program

Minnesota workers should be able to care for themselves and their families without jeopardizing their economic security. Yet too many workers lack access to paid leave, including disproportionate numbers of low wage, Black, Hispanic, part-time, and younger workers. A Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program is a fair, common-sense solution that would allow workers to take time to care for themselves or loved ones without losing pay. In addition to providing families with a measure of economic security, these programs come with benefits for children, families, businesses, and our economy. We support modernizing our workplace standards through a state-administered Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program.

Minnesota Family Investment Program Cash Grant Increase

Children in households accessing MFIP are at risk of or are already experiencing the harmful effects of living in deep poverty that can last a lifetime. Nearly 71 percent of people in households accessing MFIP are children and most MFIP households have a child under age 6. For a family of three MFIP provides a maximum cash grant of $532 and food assistance of $473 per month. The cash grant hasn’t been raised since 1986 and doesn’t allow families to meet the barest of budgets. We advocate for increasing the MFIP cash grant to help families move ahead and give children a chance to thrive.

Targeted Improvements to Tax Credits 

  • Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit: The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit helps families offset the high cost of child care. Unfortunately, it has not kept up with the rising cost of care. We support increasing and expanding the credit to help more low- and mid-income families afford the care that meets their needs.

  • Working Family Credit: The Working Family Credit is Minnesota’s version of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit. Research on the EITC shows long-lasting positive effects for children in families who receive it, including improved health and academic outcomes and increased earnings as adults. We support increasing the size of the credit that Minnesota households can receive and expanding eligibility parameters.

Track the progress of our priorities here

2016 State Legislative Wrap-Up

2016 state legislative session yields gains for children and families, but also missed opportunities

The state legislature concluded its 2016 work in May, passing a $182 million supplemental budget and cutting taxes $257 million. With these bills come gains for children and families, but missed opportunities, too. Governor Dayton signed the supplemental budget bill but vetoed the tax bill.

Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota continued to center its work at the capitol this session around two-generation policies and programs, including affordable, accessible child care opportunities through investment in the Child Care Assistance Program and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, creating a Paid Family and Medical Leave insurance program, an improved Working Family Credit, and an increased cash grant for families accessing the Minnesota Family Investment Program.

Of these agenda items, lawmakers passed an increased and expanded Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit and Working Family Credit in their final tax bill. If signed into law, the changes made to these two credits would have helped improve the economic security of some of our state’s low- and mid-income families.

Though they were not included in end of session agreements, CDF-MN made significant headway on our other priorities and we will build on the momentum gained to achieve victories in the coming session.

Read below for a review of our 2016 legislative agenda and the progress we made in partnership with dedicated coalitions and legislative champions. Find additional details on our legislative agenda here.

Affordable, Accessible Child Care

  • Child Care Assistance Program 
    CCAP helps hard-working, low-income families afford child care for children 0-13. Funding is an urgent issue facing the program and is reflected in low provider reimbursement rates and a 7,200 family wait list for the Basic Sliding Fee (BSF) sub-program.

    This session we continued our work with the Kids Can’t Wait coalition, advocating to fully fund and forecast BSF and to raise CCAP provider reimbursement rates. While both Governor Dayton and the Senate recommended increased reimbursement rates for CCAP providers in their budgets in order to help providers serve CCAP families and help CCAP families find affordable care, lawmakers did not include any changes to CCAP rates or funding in their final supplemental budget bill. CCAP will continue to be one of our top priorities in 2017.

  • Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit 
    The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit hasn’t kept up with the rising cost of child care. We are pleased that lawmakers included an increased and expanded Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit in their final tax bill that, if signed into law, would have helped more low- and mid-income families afford the high cost of care. Families with one dependent would have been able to access a new maximum credit of $1,050 (up from $720) and the maximum adjusted gross income to qualify for the credit would have been $44,900 (up from $39,400). Families with two or more dependents would have been able to access a new maximum credit of $2,100 (up from $1,440) and the maximum adjusted gross income to qualify for the credit would have been $51,800 (up from $39,400). See p. 14 for additional detail. Governor Dayton did not sign the tax bill into law, however, and so these changes were not made.

Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program

Minnesota workers, including working parents, should be able to work and care for themselves and their families. A Paid Family and Medical Leave insurance program is a fair, common-sense solution proven effective worldwide that would help them do both. Such a program would provide a measure of economic security to workers and families in times of need, allow Minnesotans to care for themselves and others while remaining attached to the workforce, and offer other benefits broad in reach, including improved maternal and child health, increased paternal involvement in children’s lives, and reduced reliance on public assistance programs.

As one of three co-chairs of the Minnesotans for Paid Family Leave coalition, we are proud of the progress we made this session to advance a Paid Family and Medical Leave insurance program in Minnesota. The Paid Family and Medical Leave Act received six Senate hearings and passed the Senate floor as part of their omnibus tax bill. Despite progress in the Senate, however, for the second year in a row the bill received no hearing in the House and was blocked for passage. This issue continues to be one of our key agenda items for the 2017 legislative session. Read the coalition’s response to end of session here. See photos from our May 17, 2016 coalition rally here.

Working Family Credit

The Working Family Credit is Minnesota’s version of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit. Research on the EITC shows long-lasting positive effects for children in families who receive it, including improved health and academic outcomes and increased earnings as adults.

We are pleased that the legislature included an improved Working Family Credit in their final tax bill. Had the bill been signed into law, it would have increased the size of the tax credit for most currently eligible individuals and families, raised the income threshold to qualify for the credit, and for workers without dependent children, lowered the age to qualify from 25 to 21. See p. 15 for additional detail. Governor Dayton did not sign the tax bill into law, however, and so these changes were not made.

Minnesota Family Investment Program Cash Grant

Children in households accessing MFIP are at risk of or are already experiencing the harmful effects of living in deep poverty that can last a lifetime. Nearly 71 percent of people in households accessing MFIP are children and most MFIP households have a child under age 6. The cash grant hasn’t been raised since 1986 and doesn’t allow families to meet the barest of budgets.

Governor Dayton included a $100/month cash grant increase in his budget proposal but neither the House nor the Senate included it and it did not pass as part of the supplemental budget agreement. While it was not passed into law this year, we will work with partners to make this issue a priority for lawmakers next session.

In sum, this year’s legislative session yielded tangible gains for Minnesota children and families, including through improvements to the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit and Working Family Credit, but also missed opportunities. 2016 should have been the year that we invested in affordable, accessible child care and the MFIP cash grant increase. It should have been the year that we gave the workers, children, and families of Minnesota what so much of the world already enjoys: Paid Family and Medical Leave.

In the coming months, we at CDF-MN will build on the momentum achieved around these issues and hope that you will work in partnership with us as we move forward.