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Missouri lawmakers consider property tax exemption for childcare providers

by Cameron Gerber | January 27, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

Missouri lawmakers are considering a resolution that would ease a tax burden for childcare businesses, a move supporters said would ease a challenge for businesses and prospective employees.

Senate Joint Resolution 26, a proposal filed by Holts Summit Republican Sen. Travis Fitzwater, would authorize the exemption of all real and personal property used for childcare services from property taxation. He told the Senate Fiscal Oversight Committee during a hearing Thursday morning the change required a resolution, which must pass both chambers and go to a vote of the people, due to a prior Missouri Supreme Court decision that such exceptions would need to go through the ballot process.

"We obviously have a childcare facility shortage in our state; we need to provide opportunities for folks that get childcare. This is just one incentive to try to make it easier for the facilities to provide childcare," Fitzwater said. "We just want to encourage childcare facilities in the state to expand and have opportunities to keep more of their money, because they're providing a real necessity of a service in the state of Missouri."

Heidi Sutherland, director of legislative affairs for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said childcare had been identified as one of the largest barriers to recruiting new employees by its members.

"We do a CEO survey of our members every year, and so this year 78 percent of business leaders in the state said that lack of childcare availability is making it difficult to find workers, and it's keeping workers out of the workforce, especially single parents and especially women," she said. "It's going to take an all-of-the-above approach to tackle the childcare crisis, but I think this measure is a great way to start."

Sam Lee with Campaign Life Missouri, a group largely focused on opposing abortion, said increased access to childcare could eliminate financial concerns that may make women consider abortions. He noted it was a tricky area of law, where businesses such as hospitals may only have sections of their facility focused on childcare exempt under the current bill language, but that it could still prove beneficial to families.

"We fully support this, this pro-life, pro-family, pro-workforce development measure," Lee said. "The pro-life movement has generally not been involved in areas of childcare, although for our maternity homes and pregnancy resource centers, the lack of available childcare, the lack of transportation, the lack of housing, have always been the three major issues for their clients."

Lee said these sites would apply for the exemption through the same avenues others can under state law.

Nancy Giddens, testifying on behalf of United WE and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, echoed the need to remove barriers to employment after a tumultuous couple of years for the economy.

"We all know that employers are having problems finding employees," she said. "We all understand that employees are having problems finding childcare. We've seen it during COVID. We see it today. And so you will see us support anything that helps ease that burden and mitigate those issues. And so we certainly see this as one of those issues."

No one testified in opposition to the proposal, and the committee did not vote on or amend the resolution.

Fitzwater said a typical bill passed by the General Assembly would be necessary to enact the program and hoped to see it open a larger discussion about childcare.

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