N.J. looks at allowing spending campaign dollars on child care

Jun 30, 2019

Legislation floated in New Jersey would allow political candidates and elected officials to use campaign money to pay for child care.

Supporters say too many political hopefuls — most often women — have to decide between hitting the campaign trail or staying at home to look after young kids.

New Jersey lawmakers are considering allowing political candidates to pay for child care with campaign money. (Emma Lee)

“One of the hurdles to women running for office is having young children at home and being confronted with the multiple demands of caregiving and trying to run for office,” said Kelly Dittmar, a scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

“That has often meant that women make the decision to run when their kids are older or when those responsibilities aren’t falling to them,” she added.

The idea has become popular in recent years. Colorado and Utah now have laws that allow candidates to use campaign funds for child care. And campaign finance officials have permitted the practice in several other states.

The Federal Election Commission also announced last year that it would allow candidates for federal office to pay for child care with campaign money.

State Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, one of the bill’s sponsors, said she wanted to codify the federal rules in New Jersey law for state and local candidates.

Ruiz said she hoped it would push more women, who experts say still bear the brunt of child care duties, to run for office.

“We know that this could potentially impact women more,” Ruiz said. “When you think about our numbers on every level of government, we hope that something like this would encourage women who perhaps have to make a decision whether to run for public office.”

The state Senate passed the bill (A-4037) without opposition Thursday. It is awaiting action in the Assembly.