Progs slam Shumlin over plan to fund childcare by cutting benefits to poor

A group of Progressive lawmakers this afternoon took an aggressive stance against Peter Shumlin’s first high-profile proposal of 2013, saying his “half-baked” plan to fund new childcare subsidies would “pit working families against one another.”

Shumlin won plaudits last week for proposing that Vermont spend an additional $17 million on childcare subsidies for low-income parents. But his plan to fund it – reducing an “earned income tax credit” that now delivers refund checks to more than 40,000 low-income tax filers – has drawn a scathing rebuke.

At a press conference in the Cedar Creek room, Rep. Chris Pearson, a Burlington Progressive, said it can’t be considered a “serious proposal.”

I have yet to hear from any Democrat who supports this idea. Republicans have articulated their concerns, and Progressives are solidly opposed to this funding scheme,” Pearson said.

Pearson said Vermont needs to move ahead with the additional childcare subsidies, but that “there is no reason to cut the most effective anti-poverty program in Vermont” to do it.

Pearson and Sen. Anthony Pollina said a small increase on the tax rates of wealthy Vermonters would easily cover the cost.

It’s odd, Pearson said, that Shumlin last year rejected their proposed tax hike on people making more than $373,000 per year as a “broad-based tax increase.”

He said he was opposed to broad-based tax increases, even though our proposal lat year only impacted about 4,000 families,” Pearson said. “By contrast, this proposal hits over 40,000.”

After the press conference, Secretary of Human Services Doug Racine again defended the plan. Vermont has limited resources with which to help lower-income residents, Racine says, And he and the governor believe the $17 million will deliver more value to Vermont families if it’s reallocated in the form of a childcare subsidy.

Racine also says that Vermont’s tax code has become more progressive in the 25 years since the EITC was created, something that has benefited financially the people who would be affected by the proposed reduction.

Pearson said he thinks the whole episode may just be an elaborate political play.

Gov. Shumlin is a skilled politician, and I fear this is a diversionary tactic,” Pearson said. “Perhaps he hopes his laughable revenue plan will be enough to distract lawmakers and advocates from the budget cuts we expect next week,” Pearson said. “We will not be distracted. We will work tirelessly to protect those who the economic boom of previous decades has left behind.”