JFC approves boost for DCF, including child care reimbursements

The Joint Finance Committee approved 11-4 along party lines boosting programs in the Department of Children and Families by $125.5 million in all funds over the next two years.

The bulk of that increase — $77.3 million — would go to increase reimbursement rates for Wisconsin Shares, a program that provides child care assistance to low-income families so parents and other caretakers can work or participate in job training.

But that was about $22.9 million less than the guv proposed.

Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said it was good that Republicans were willing to put more money into the program after years of not doing enough. But she said her GOP colleagues should’ve been willing to meet the guv’s proposed funding level, saying the Republican plan was below market rates.

“You’re still going to leave families without options,” Taylor said.

Overall, the JFC package is about $65.5 million less than what Evers proposed. But a significant piece of that difference — about $54.6 million — due to the committee previously pulling over the guv’s proposal to expand the earned income tax credit.

Committee Co-Chair also slammed the Evers administration during the debate over the package. He said the Department of Children and Families had failed to share with lawmakers until Monday a warning from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in February that the state needed to increase its reimbursements rates for child care programs to meet federal standards.

“That’s gross neglect, and it’s something we as a body should hold them accountable for,” Nygren said.

Meanwhile, Dems complained that the GOP motion would lead to a reduction in state aid for Milwaukee County, the only one in Wisconsin in which the state operates the child welfare system.

Under state law, Milwaukee County’s shared revenue is supposed to be reduced to account for the services the state provides. But the amount of the reduction hasn’t increased since at least 2012, according to Republicans, even as costs have increased dramatically to provide the serves.

Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, said he understands the unique situation his home county is in. But he called the move blatantly unfair to Milwaukee County because it would leave fewer resources to address issues facing the area.

“It’s a bad motion for Milwaukee County, only Milwaukee County that is,” Goyke said.

But Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, said others on the committee should feel the same outrage because their constituents have been picking up a bigger share of the tab for Milwaukee’s child welfare services.

“You said it was a screwing of Milwaukee. I’d say it was a screwing in the opposite direction, and we’re going to stop that tonight,” Born said.

Read the GOP motion.