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‘You really have a choice’: Wisconsin members of Congress react to ‘American Families Plan’

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The White House released Wednesday a nearly $2 trillion plan aimed at child care and alternative higher education opportunities.

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The 'American Families Plan' was unveiled ahead of President Joe Biden's address to Congress as he approaches his 100th day in office.

The plan includes proposals to cover the cost of two tuition-free years for Americans at community and technical colleges. It would provide 75 percent of the average tuition cost in a state with states covering the rest of the cost.

Biden's proposal also calls for universal pre-K education for all 3 and 4-year-olds. Child care coverage is a cornerstone of the plan, which also proposes providing enough funding so that lower and middle-income families do not spend more than seven percent of their earnings on child care.

The plan eventually provide Americans with the ability to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave at $4,000 a month for parental or personal leave, allowing people paid time to spend with a new child, care for a sick relative, or grieve the death of a family member.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) said the pandemic has illustrated the economic impact of what happens when families lose the ability to send their kids to school or daycare.

"Many, and disproportionately women, needed to leave the workforce because of the responsibilities if child care and early childhood education wasn't available," Baldwin said.

The state's junior senator added she was particularly excited about the community college proposal since she had been tried to a get a bill passed that would fund those two years of tuition.

"I think it is something that is desperately needed," Baldwin said. "Not only to support our families, but to have the workforce in place prepared to win the 21st Century."

Republicans are expected to reject the proposal due to its price tag. The plan pays for itself by raising taxes on the highest income bracket back to 39.6 percent, where it was before the 2017 Republican tax cuts.

The plan would also generate money by raising the taxes on capital gains for households making more than $1 million annually. That rate would also increase to 39.6 percent.

Rep. Bryan Steil (R-Janesville) said he opposed raising taxes on anyone coming out of the pandemic.

"I think what we should be looking forward to doing is growing our economy, reducing the burden on creating new jobs here in the United States," Steil said. "Not increasing the burden on job creators here in the United States, making us less competitive with countries like communist China."

Steil said he also believed initiatives like tuition-free technical college and universal pre-school should be made at the state level.

"Localizing these decisions is often best," Steil said. "The workforce needs here in Wisconsin are different than states like Hawaii or Idaho or New York City."

The challenge for Biden and supporters of the plan like Baldwin will be convincing more moderate Democrats to support the creation of large federal programs.

With a 50-50 split in the Senate, Baldwin recognized the challenge and said she believed the colleagues in her caucus would realize Biden's proposals would be largely popular with voters.

"You really have a choice and I think this will expose whose side people are on," she said.

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A. J. Bayatpour

Capitol Bureau Chief

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