DHS program adjustments a step in the right direction

June 20, 2011

In an article last year I made the argument that “state legislators should shrink the Department of Human Services budget and enlarge your family budget: Redirect a portion of Oklahoma’s daycare subsidies toward a tax break for families with a parent at home.”

This idea enjoys overwhelming popular support. A scientific telephone survey of 1,000 likely Oklahoma voters was conducted February 25 through March 8, 2010, by SoonerPoll (margin of error: plus or minus 3.1 percentage points). The surveyor asked this question: “Now thinking about early-childhood policy in Oklahoma, assuming the state government had a limited amount of money, which of the following do you believe should take precedence?” The results:

The “tax break for families” option prevailed in all demographic groups: men and women, rich and poor, married and single, highly educated and barely educated, religious and irreligious. It prevailed among Republicans, Democrats, Independents, conservatives, liberals, and moderates. It prevailed among those living in Tulsa, those living in Oklahoma City, and those living in the rest of the state. The “daycare” option couldn’t even carry the day among those earning less than $15,000 (the margin was 52 to 30), those earning between $15,000 and $24,000 (75 to 15), or those earning between $25,000 and $34,000 (65 to 22). Even among the “very liberal” the tax break for families prevailed 60 to 33.

Alas, there was a small step in the right direction last week when the Oklahoma Department of Human Services raised the monthly co-pays and changed the eligibility requirements for those receiving child care subsidies. Here’s hoping state legislators in 2012 will make even more progress by shrinking the DHS budget even further and increasing the Oklahoma child tax credit.