Hertel: Child care credit would help working families

State Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr.

Gov. Rick Snyder talks a lot about reinventing Michigan, and he points to things like lower unemployment as evidence of an economic recovery.

While that’s welcome news, it doesn’t tell the whole story. The fact is, there are two Michigans right now — one for the wealthy and powerful, and another for the average working family.

The median income in Michigan has plummeted since the turn of the century, according to a recently released study by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

In 2000, the median income was $61,551. As of 2013, that fell to $48,273.

At the same time, working families have seen higher taxes and more financial pressures than ever before.

The average family in Michigan pays more than $9,700 annually in child care costs alone. That’s roughly one-fifth the median household income — and it’s making it nearly impossible for working families to be part of the recovery Gov. Snyder lauds.

That’s why I’ve introduced legislation that would allow Michigan taxpayers to claim a credit against those expenses based on their income, so that struggling families get the relief they need.

Without dependable, quality childcare, working families can’t get ahead. For single parents, it’s even more important.

And it’s a change that’s sorely needed. A recent report gave Michigan an “F” for the tax provisions available for child care — because there are none. Yet 28 other states have some form of tax benefit for child care, and it’s time for us to join in.

Obviously, this isn’t a magic bullet solution to every challenge facing Michigan’s hard-working families. But it’s a start.

Taken with other efforts, like a tax credit for those paying off student loans, we can loosen the grip of financial pressure on working families in Michigan.

With a commitment to do what’s right for the people who need help and relief the most, we can make certain that everyone can share in the economic recovery.

I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to make that happen.

State Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., D- East Lansing, represents the 23rd District.