We have to prioritize Minnesota families, and we have the budget to make it happen.
“Our state needs to focus more resources on making it easier to get married, stay married, raise children and provide care for our loved ones, young and old,” Jason Adkins and Ryan Hamilton write in this op-ed piece that first published in the Star Tribune.
With the news of a projected a $7.7 billion state budget surplus, followed by the failure of the federal Build Back Better Act, it is time for Minnesota to localize programs that have been shown to reduce child poverty.
Gov. Tim Walz and legislators can bypass stale ideological debates with innovative approaches to both spending and taxes that assist Minnesota's families, our most important producers.
Almost no one disputes that economics factor into decisions about marriage and children. Our state needs to focus more resources on making it easier to get married, stay married, raise children and provide care for our loved ones, young and old.
Time and again, parents have expressed what they need to fulfill their purpose. They want to work, but they also want the freedom to care for the loved ones they work hard to support. In a recent study, 60% of households with no four-year degree said they would prefer one parent staying home. Almost 40% of families with two working parents indicated that they would prefer to have one parent work only part time or stay home with children if they could afford it. Over 80% of households with only one parent working want to stay that way.
Therefore, the centerpiece of what we propose is a fully refundable state child tax credit or monthly per-child benefit directed to low- and middle-income parents. Rather than doubling down on programs that are either inflexible or provide only indirect assistance to families, let's put more money directly into the budgets of these key producers by allowing them to keep what they earn or subsidizing their efforts to move up the economic ladder.
How would we pay for such a proposal? The state's projected surplus could cover for one year a $150 monthly per child tax credit for households with less than $120,000 in income. Going forward, that benefit could be built into a state budget. Such a child benefit would represent less than 10% of the state's total spending.
More ambitiously, and to give more parents the opportunity to stay home, the state could increase the benefit and restructure existing programs that assist families and, in turn, incur savings by reducing the bureaucracy that is needed to administer the programs, particularly at the county level.