The House and Senate released their budgets earlier this week. Overall, we were pleased to see many of our priorities reflected in both budgets, which will result in positive impacts for our state’s children and families.
Last year’s big wins for early learning are followed up with funding to implement the Fair Start for Kids Act: legislation which is already benefiting kids across the state. Both House and Senate budgets invest in the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP): high-quality preschool that addresses racial disparities that hold back Black, Native American and Latino/a children while helping all kids get a strong start in kindergarten. Furthermore, we see lawmakers recognizing and removing barriers to early childhood workforce recruitment by investing funds to waive out-of-pocket costs for childcare providers entering the workforce.
In a big step forward for oral health access, both Senate and House budgets provide funds to increase the payments made via Apple Health to dental providers serving low-income children. Many of our state’s children, particularly those in low-income communities of color, face preventable dental disease due to a lack of access to dental care. This funding will enable more kids to keep the healthy smiles they deserve.
As part of the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC) coalition, we are thrilled to see equity investments in both budgets to support the launch of the Working Families Tax Credit. With this investment, the state will be able to support community-based organizations with funds necessary to perform outreach and navigation support to communities that may not know they are eligible for the WFTC and are most at risk of missing out.
All these good investments will need progressive revenue to sustain them. Federal COVID relief funds awarded to the state are set to expire in 2024. To replace these, lawmakers must protect the recently enacted capital gains tax, and work harder to fix our upside-down tax code with other equitable sources of revenue, such as a billionaires’ wealth tax.