St. Paul City Council overrides mayor's veto of child care ballot measure

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter answers questions.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter vetoed the proposal late last month.
Lacey Young | MPR News

The St. Paul City Council voted Wednesday afternoon to override Mayor Melvin Carter’s veto of a proposal that would let voters decide whether to raise property taxes to pay for early child care. 

The veto override puts the proposal on the path to the ballot in the November 2024 election. It’s asking voters to approve tax increases to fund child care in the city for children from birth to the age of five. 

It would fully cover children whose families make less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $55,500. The proposal would also partially cover families making more than 185 percent of the poverty level on a sliding scale. 

Carter vetoed the proposal late last month. He said the numbers just don’t work for the proposal, which he says would result in an estimated $90 million dollar annual shortfall if approved by voters. 

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“Implementing this proposal as it’s currently drafted is just not a viable option for the city,” Carter said. “This is a hundred million dollar plus proposal that we to date have seen no plan for, that we to date have seen no budget for, that has insufficient resources for it and, frankly, no one is suggesting that they have any idea how to make it work.”

Although there hasn’t been an official fiscal analysis associated with the ballot measure, Carter put the entire cost at about $111 million annually at a minimum, including $81 million for fully funding childcare for families under 185 percent of the federal poverty level, $20 million for partially funding childcare for families earning more and $10 million for administrative costs. 

The council overrode Carter’s veto 5 to 2. Council Member Rebecca Noecker said planning has been underway on the measure for years and urged the council to move forward.

“This vote commits us to action and to a robust public conversation about investing in our kids and families and it's time to move that conversation forward,” Noecker said. 

Council Member Nelsie Yang said other cities around the country have shown that a program like this is achievable.  

“This resolution allows St. Paul voters to decide if they want to invest in children's futures,” Yang said. “With this override, I look forward to the collaboration across the city of St. Paul to ensure we continue to put forth the best options for St. Paul children.”

Council Member Mitra Jalali voted against the measure because she said it doesn’t include a structured conversation about city budget implications the same as other programs passed by the council. 

“I don't think this is the appropriate route to pursue what I see as a worthy goal,” Jalali said. 

If voters approve the ballot measure in 2024, Carter’s administration will be authorized to implement it.