Commentary: Tax reform should invest in our future, our kids

The tax plans introduced by Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate puts kids’ futures at risk.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky gathers other Republican senators to call for an amendment to the Constitution requiring a balanced federal budget, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, March 31, 2011. To the left are Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, conferring with freshman Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Kids don’t vote and they don’t donate to political campaigns. This means they often don’t have a seat at the table and the needs of those living in poverty can easily be overlooked during national debates.

Children in Utah were certainly denied a seat at the table in the House and Senate’s tax reform plans introduced this month in Washington, D.C. But members of the Senate, including Utah’s Orrin Hatch, still have a chance to address the needs of Utah’s children and their parents as they negotiate a final package.

The tax plans introduced by Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate puts kids’ futures at risk and do not live up to the president’s campaign promise to help working families better afford the enormous cost of high-quality child care. Both plans fail to increase the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC), which was created specifically to help more families afford quality child care.

Tax reform is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Congress to ensure equal opportunity for all kids, regardless of their economic background or where they were born.

We know that kids living in poverty are at a disadvantage compared to their more well-off peers. In fact, by age 4, children in poverty are as much as 18 months behind in development.

High-quality early childhood education and child care are two of the most effective tools in breaking the cycle of poverty, but they are currently out of reach for too many families in America.

In Utah, as well as 32 other states across the country, child care is more expensive than in-state college tuition. It costs more than $6,000 annually to enroll a 4-year-old in a quality program. Infant care is even more costly. As a nation, we can do more to help families afford the quality care their kids deserve.

Helping working families afford these programs is not a government handout. Indeed, high-quality early childhood programs offer tangible returns on investment to all taxpayers, as they lead to higher graduation rates for enrolled children, lower justice system costs and fewer families relying on government assistance.

A December 2016 report from Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman shows the rate of return on investments in early childhood development for many children can be 13 percent per child, per year due to improved outcomes in education, health, sociability, economic productivity and reduced crime.

Sen. Mike Lee and his colleague, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, have been advocating for an expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which helps parents cover the cost of raising kids. And while it serves a vital purpose, the CTC does not directly address the rapidly rising cost of child care and early education programs. That’s why Congress should also expand and enhance the child care tax credit, which is specifically aimed at helping families afford quality child care.

When kids attend good child care programs, they are more likely to start school ready to learn, avoid costly remedial education, and ultimately join and stay in the work force. It’s critical that, as a nation, we do more to enable parents to enroll their children in high-quality programs. What’s good for working families is good for us all.

Under Senator Hatch’s leadership as chairman of the Finance Committee, the Senate has an opportunity to make a real investment in working families and their children, ensuring that America’s next generation has the chance to succeed.

Sen. Hatch should incorporate the bipartisan Promoting Affordable Childcare for Everyone (PACE) Act into the Senate’s tax reform proposal during this week’s markup. The PACE Act, which is supported by Republicans and Democrats and Independents in the Senate, makes the child care tax credit refundable for low-income families, increases the credit’s value, and indexes it to inflation. Save the Children Action Network enthusiastically supports the PACE Act and urges Senator Hatch to include this critical legislation in tax reform.

Children may only be 20 percent of our population, but they are 100 percent of our future. Investments in our kids are the best ones we, as a country, can make. Let’s make sure we are doing all we can to provide our children with the opportunity to thrive.

Mark K. Shriver is president of Save the Children Action Network.

Mark K. Shriver Senior Vice President Save The Children Washington, DC Contact Betsy Zorio email: bzorio@savechildren.org