WASHINGTON — A day after President Clinton made expanding child care a centerpiece of his State of the Union address, a group of mostly Northeast Republicans offered their own plan designed to appeal to working and stay-at-home mothers.
The GOP senators, including Maine’s Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, want to expand tax credits for working parents who place their children in day care and offer similar tax credits to families with one parent who stays at home.
“It is not about pitting one group against another, or starting a `mommy war,”‘ Snowe said. “It is about helping parents do the best they can for their children, no matter what choice they make.”
The GOP plan would allow families with two working parents earning up to $30,000 a year to take the full $1,440 tax credit for child care expenses. Their bill, however, would phase out that child care credit, ending with families earning $105,000 a year.
Current law allows the child care credit for wealthy families, something Clinton’s $21.7 billion plan maintains. “Bill Gates gets the same [credit] as a single mother earning $30,000,” said Sen. John Chafee, R-R.I., a member of the Senate Finance Committee that will take up the competing child care bills.
Chafee worked for three months putting together the legislation with Snowe, Sens. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Pat Roberts, R-Kan. Collins signed on to the bill this week.
Some parts of the White House plan did win support from the Chafee group. Clinton would double the number of children receiving federal subsidies for day-care programs to 2 million, increasing funding by $7.5 billion over five years. Those subsidies could be used to pay for government-run day-care or private centers, administration officials said.
The biggest difference between the two plans is the inclusion of tax credits for stay-at-home parents, a provision that will appeal to family-values conservatives who prefer mothers to care for children. The Republican plan allows for families with a stay-at-home mother or father to take a little more than half of the tax credits available to parents who choose child care.
If one parent earns $30,000 and the other stays at home, they would be eligible for a $900 tax credit. “It recognizes the child care problems faced by all parents, not just those who work outside the home,” Collins said.