Much is being made of a declared conflict I had when I testified recently about what I think is serious problem with government unfairly influencing the day care market.
It’s true, I do have a conflict of interest — I have built a successful day care business from the ground up. As a part time Legislature of course we have conflicts, but at the same time that allows us to bring professional and real world experience to the job.
What I do for a living is no surprise to anyone. People trying to make an issue of the fact that I didn’t mention my profession when the topic was being discussed are disingenuous at best. I talk about what I do for a living every chance I get. It is on my disclosure statement, my campaign website and my legislative profile page. I have mentioned it numerous times during committee discussions and talked about it at almost every town hall and cottage meeting I have ever had.
The committee members I testified in front of also know what I do for a living. So when I sat at the witness table to testify, it was the unfair practices courtesy of state government that was on my mind. That is the real conflict of interest, the conflict of public interest.
Here’s the problem:
School-based childcare and preschool businesses are exempt from state licensing. They do not have to pay property taxes, sales taxes, or income taxes on their profits. Taxpayers subsidize their construction/startup costs and their on-going operating expenses (rent, utilities, sometimes even staffing and supply costs) and the school-based programs get to market directly to children and families by sending fliers home in backpacks and placing signage at the schools. Many (if not all) districts will not allow the private providers to do this and that is a huge advantage. That means private businesses like mine are not only at a revenue and marketing disadvantage, but we’re essentially being forced to fund our competition via tax dollars.
I want to clear something else up. I have not nor do I plan to propose legislation that would require existing programs to shut down. I was simply participating in an interim study presenting facts. I invited people on both sides of this issue to testify and those there to discuss the benefits of public programs far outnumbered those there to discuss the inequities.
Here’s how we got to that interim meeting:
During the 2011 legislative session Rep. Brad Galvez, R-West Haven, had a bill that I believe could have shut down any public school based child-care or preschool business. I call them businesses because they charge fees and make a profit. The profits are often used to fund other activities but they are businesses intended to generate revenue, Rep. Galvez was running the bill at the request of a constituent but did tell me about it when we were going through orientation.
Later, during the session Rep. Galvez told me he was pulling the bill for a number of reasons, including pressure he was feeling from non-profits. I approached Majority Leader Brad Dee and told him that it is an important issue to study because there are a lot of unfair issues. He suggested that we study it during interim and it was included in the master study list. The Speaker of the House thinks the issue is interesting, so she changed my interim assignment to Workforce Services.
Which is why I testified in the interim committee, which media outlets picked up, which may not have been clear about my role or the background.