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Dems, Astorino Clash Over Child Care Funding

County Executive seeks to raise parents' contribution level, claiming it's needed to fund the program. Legislators take Astorino to court over proposed increase.

Democrats in Westchester County's Board of Legislators are blasting County Executive Robert Astorino over his proposal to increase the parent contribution rate for the subsizied daycare program from 20 percent to 35 percent.

At a press conference Friday at Mount Kisco Child Care Center (MKCCC), Majority Leader Peter Harckham (D-Katonah) argued that raising the rate, which would be in effect for November and December, would cause working parents to pull their children out of programs and possibly quit their jobs in order to look after them.

“We’re talking about the working poor here, folks who are working hard to contribute to the economy," he said. "They want to work, they want to contribute, and we know from past experience that when they lose access to adequate, affordable child care, they make a choice: either put their child in unsafe, unlicensed daycare or they give up work.”

Harckham argued that Astorino has been hostile to child care during his tenure, citing the fact that the parents' contribution rate has steadily risen for the past three years. As a contrast, he noted that the average parent share at the end of 2009 was $86, versus a possible $311 if the 35-percent rate goes into effect.

Saying, “when the county executive did it the first year, you can say it was a misguided budget choice. Two years in a row, it then becomes a very, very concerning policy choice. And now we’re on year 3 of increasing the parent share, and this is a concerted war on child care.”

Harckham was flanked by local daycare providers and parents who benefit from their services.

Dottie Jordan, executive director for MKCCC, warned that the increase will lead to families dropping their child care, and that the change would have negative implications for children in the long run.

“The short-sighted decisions today will mean terrible long-term consequences for our county. Westchester County needs early care education programs to prepare children for the future. The lack of investment for our children will impact their success in the future.’

Supporters of keeping the level where it is argued that it is needed for working parents so that they can contribute to society while having their kids watched properly. They argued that the alternatives would be for parents, having to quit their jobs to watch their kids, to go on public assistance, or if seeking unlicensed daycare.

“They’re motivated, working people who happen to have young children that need to be cared for when they are outside of the home," said Polly Peace, director for Country Childrens Center, which has locations in Bedford Hills, Katonah and Yorktown.

“I am not looking for a hand out, I am looking for a hand up, so please help us out," said Wendy Urbina, a Sleepy Hollow mother who works at MKCCC and has her child enrolled in it.

Clark Robson, a Chappaqua resident and MKCCC board member, noted that the center had a deficit last year partly due to a previous rate increase, and faces another one for this year.

“With further cuts in the county aid over the next several years we don’t really know what we’re going to do. We desperately don’t want to reduce the quality of care. We have a real dilemma and we need help from the county.”

More thn half of MKCCC families have some sort of tuition assistance, according to Jordan, with about 25 percent of those families depending on the county's subsidy, she said. 

The 20-percent figure was the number approved by the legislators for the 2012 budget. Astorino has spent much of the year pushing for an increase to the 35-percent level. The county executive's office argues that the increase is necessary because the program does not have enough money and faces a budget deficit.

The Mount Kisco event was one of two held by Democratic legislators to hit Astorino. This week, Vice Chair Lyndon Williams (D-Mount Vernon) held an event at Mount Vernon City Hall to highlight the issue.

“Most decent and compassionate Westchester residents who learn that this Administration makes subsidies for golf a priority over subsidies that keep infants and toddlers from low-income families in safe, regulated day care will find it a disgrace," Williams said in a press release.

Harckham, at his press conference, argued that the program can be paid for another way, citing a projected budget surplus of more than $7 million for the county's Department of Social Services (DSS).

Not so, argues Ned McCormack, Astorino's communications director. He notes that the surplus is still just a projected figure, making it unwise to assume it's viable to use for payment. He also stated that some of the money would have to pay for mandated services such as Medicaid.

"You don't know it's real until the end of the year," he said.

McCormack painted a dire fiscal picture for the program, arguing that the rate increase is better than other alternatives, such as reducing eligibility or closing it.

The Democratic legislators and Astorino have been in court since the spring. In May, the legislature's Democratic leadership filed a lawsuit in state supreme court to stop the proposed increase, and argued that Astorino, along with DSS commisioner Kevin McGuire can't change a figure from an adopted county budget without the legislators' approval. The Democrats were dealt a setback in August when Judge Robert Neary ruled in Astorino's favor. The case has been appealed and is still pending.

Gerry Powers September 30, 2012 at 11:51 AM
Why are so many single women having children. They should get the support of their extended families to get them through their problems like many of us who didn't have government provided child care funding did. I, as most people, do not approve of subsidizing women who have children because they feel like it. We don't talk about it directly because it involves class lines but enough is enough. Have children when you can afford to take provide for them - not before.
Cadeyrn September 30, 2012 at 12:17 PM
Because we have become bib-wearing, subsidy-fetchiing government suckling parasites who think that every life-bump has to be smoothed with the money of others and a government hell-bent on outlawing personal responsibility. It's not enough to be "our brother's keeper" ... we have to be their lifeline.
Patricia September 30, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Many of these women were not planning on being single until there husband walked out on them or mistreated them so badly that they had to leave. It is also becoming more and more difficult to terminate pregnancies. If the policies become much more restrictive regarding abortion than there will be a lot more unwanted children to take care of.
Tom Murphy September 30, 2012 at 12:32 PM
So let me get this straight the right wing COunty Executive wants working poor women to pay 15% more of their income for childcare? Of their total income 15% more! That is a higher rate then Mitt Romney paid in taxes on his multi-million dollar income last year. Once again the Republicans are more then willing to balance the governemntal deficits that they created on the backs of poor women and children. Like all bullies they are always ready to kiss up in life and kick down. The whole idea with subsidized child care is to promote work. Astorino now wants to hit working Mom's with a 35% tax rate before the government has taken it's share. Shame on you Astorino for acting like you are a good Christian. Is this what Christ would do? Make no mistake this is just a tax hike upon the poor of this county.
Cadeyrn September 30, 2012 at 01:32 PM
The central isn't what you suggest. In fact, you suggest that we all stand at the ready to right the situations these folks have brought about on their own. The "whole idea is to promote work"? Really? What does work have to do with irresponsibility? And this isn't "a tax on the poor" at all. It's a tax on the responsible people in this society.
Ross Revira September 30, 2012 at 01:58 PM
It is Tom's kind of thinking that has made Westchester again the number one county in the country which is the highest taxed county in the country. When does personal responsibility ever factor into the direction of one's life. How many of these people have had multiple children AFTER being on the taxpayer's back? Government dependency is the goal of the Democrat party for America. Why is it when Republicans bring religion into politics the Democrats are the first to scream "separation of church and state"?
Cadeyrn September 30, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Yeah, abortion is the answer for their irresponsibility. Another easy way out. A sad out.
Cadeyrn September 30, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Everyone is at fault except for the mother. Why's that always the case?
Ross Revira September 30, 2012 at 02:03 PM
Patricia where in New York has receiving an abortion been curtailed or made more difficult? Going after deadbeat fathers is a good idea on paper but for a vast majority of these "fathers" are nothing more than sperm donors with multiple children with multiple partners. They have nothing financial to contribute.
Walden Macnair September 30, 2012 at 03:33 PM
You guys are right. Those poor folks have it made. In fact I'm sure that Astorino would become poor if he could just so he could reap in all those benefits. But, let's get serious for one moment. The implications of this go far beyond this 15% that lives in the clouds. It means that some women will have to make a choice between working and paying for childcare or not working at all. It means that some of our day care centers will close down and more people will be unemployed. I thought we were trying to get and keep people off the welfare roles not make it impossible for them to work. If astorino can show how this won't have any negative impact then I'll agree with him, but I think he's using it as an expedient way to appease the right.
Gerry Powers September 30, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Patricia, Most of these women chose to have children. those whose husbands left them are a minority now. And these women and their boyfriends were not propared to have children. No parental responsibility. No personal responsibility. I don't want to support them. Don't get me wrong. I have no problem spending money making them responsible citizens. Give them job traing so they can support themselves. Costs more then supporting them and the illigitimate children in the short run. But better for all in the long run. People like you don't understand or just want to make excuses. It has become acceptable for unprepared children and young adults to have babies among their click. People like you just make excuses because of the situation of the much smaller number who experience unfortunate circumstances. the majority are unprepaped, irresponsible muchers, to put it as nice as possible. No more.
Bob Zahm September 30, 2012 at 05:38 PM
The financial question is - is it cheaper for the tax payer to continue the subsidy for day care as the Democrats want OR is the potential other benefits / costs to be paid to support people / families who cease working because of the day care becoming unaffordable as the Republicans are essentially arguing. There are fairness questions galore on both sides of the equation. I lean towards raising the rate effective Jan 1 2013 – this year is effectively over. But before pushing fo the 20%, I’d like to know if it’s 20% of the program cost or 20% of income. I suspect it’s 20% of the program cost which makes the purported $311 contribution unrealistically high. But then, missing real facts never stopped anyone on this site from taking out a position.
Susan Troop September 30, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Why are so many men impregnating women? They should get the support of their extended families to help them get condoms and use them religiously. I, as most people, do not approve of men not taking responsibility for their reproductive organs just because they feel like having sex. We don't talk about it directly, because "boys will be boys," and women should know better. Have sex when you can afford to step up and be responsible for the children you produce- not before.
GC September 30, 2012 at 07:30 PM
“Tax the rich!” that’s pointless. The rich have the resources to protect their wealth from punitive taxation, but what about the rest of us. The rich will still be rich, and we’ll get soaked. We are all paying the price for electing politicians who have betrayed the public trust by sticking us with too many programs, entitlements and guaranteed pensions that we can’t afford. All of which have become sacrosanct, leaving the rest us stuck with the bill. I, for one, am tired of it. The Democrats have to stop waging a war on the taxpayer.
David October 01, 2012 at 03:09 AM
Nobody is happy that these women are in a tight spot. But now many taxpayers are in very tight spots, and they had nothing at all to do with these children. It's massively unfair to put further stress on them to support chosen beneficiaries. How can they become beneficiaries? They can't, they are not chosen. Pay as you go unless the money is clearly there for subsidies. It's not there. Taxpayers need any surplus returned to them, desperately.
Patricia October 01, 2012 at 10:16 AM
I, for one, would rather live in a society that takes care of the people that live in it with an excellent education system and child care system. Most of the people complaining of high taxes and the strain it puts on them spend more on their "cable tv" package and vacation to disney than they do on anything else. I just think the priorities of some of the people complaining are sad. Infrastructure, education, and scientific research are more important than the silly things most of the people waste there money on. Give the very wealthy another tax break and that money ends up in an off shore account somewhere.
GC October 01, 2012 at 12:11 PM
society that takes care of people = society without personal responsibility = society that isn't free
Patricia October 01, 2012 at 12:19 PM
society that takes care of people = society with personal responsibility = society free from hunger, ignorance, and injustice.
GC October 01, 2012 at 01:01 PM
All the more reason for the social safety net to be there for those that need it most! Instead we have politions who want to raid the treasury and make the it a way of life, which is unsustainable, and thus jeopardizing these programs for those who really need it.
Tom Murphy October 01, 2012 at 01:44 PM
This subsidy was designed with the express purpose of getting folks off of welfare and into the workforce.Studies have found that the main impediment to folks on welfare not being able to work is the unavailability of afforable and safe childcare.This subsidy saves the government money in the long run by lowering the welfare rolls and returning folks to gainful employment and to paying taxes. This is a hand up and not a hand out. To cut this program is penny wise and pound foolish.
Patricia October 01, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Tom, that is a well thought out statement and well put, thank you.
GC October 01, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Tom and Patricia will make sure there isn't a penny or a pound left for anybody. You'd rather see these programs wiped out completely some time in the future rather than trimmed today to ultimately preserve them. makes sense.
GC October 01, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Let me punctuate it: who is planning on staying in Westchester after they retire? show of hands please. OK, so if you're not; why? Is it because of high tax rates? Exactly.
Ross Revira October 01, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Tom Murphy and Patricia how long does a caring society provide for the same people? Is it caring when three generations of a family live on on welfare in a public housing project? How many generations in the same family should be on food stamps? If the responsibility of a caring society is to help the less fortunate what is the individual's responsibility? Is it your goal to create a permanent dependent class to keep the Democrat party in power?
Aidan October 01, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Answers to your questions ... # 1 ... apparently for life # 2 ... some call it caring; I call it the worst form of abuse # 3 ... it's hereditary ... it seems for too many # 4 ... the individual has NO responsibility. You are responsible for these people. # 5 ... YES
Patricia October 01, 2012 at 11:44 PM
No I do not want to create a permanent dependent class to keep the democrat party in power, I am not a democrat, I am a republican. I also do not like when the benefit is abused and that should be addressed but I thought we were talking about subsidized child care not three generations of family on welfare and food stamps. The system does get abused by those collecting government benefits on all ends of the spectrum all the way from the person collecting welfare to the large company taking subsidies and claiming false tax exemptions.
Ross Revira October 02, 2012 at 11:35 AM
So Patricia where does personal responsibility begin and when does society's (government) help end? It would seem any direction taken by the government to modify the help is attacked and described as heartless. Crime occurs in all levels of society so does that mean each group has a quota before things change?

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