Simplified: The Sioux Falls City Council had its first discussion on legislative priorities for 2024 this week, and an early topic to make the council's shortlist of what it wants lawmakers to focus on is childcare.

Why it matters

  • The childcare crisis is real. It costs more in one year to send your kid to a childcare center in Sioux Falls than it would to send them to a South Dakota state university. And beyond that, childcare shortages are affecting the local workforce, all while providers struggle to keep up with increasing costs and tighter margins.
  • But the city hasn't yet made practical steps to help out. Councilors voted down a budget amendment to add $100,000 to help address childcare needs in the city in 2024, and Mayor Paul TenHaken's five-year capital spending plan makes no mention of childcare as a funding priority.
  • That could change, though, if the state takes the lead. Councilor Rich Merkouris said Monday that he'd like to see childcare added to a list of legislative priorities the council will share with lawmakers ahead of the 2024 session. Specifically, he'd like to see changes to the state's childcare assistance program.
"That program is a little bit archaic and has some sizable bureaucratic challenges and other challenges with it ... Some refinement on this would impact economic, business and individuals in our community," Merkouris said.

Tell me more

Merkouris' comments were echoed by Councilor David Barranco, who said it was a "terrific suggestion."

Merkouris also suggested being as specific as possible in a recommendation so that it can have a real impact.

"We may not be able to come to an agreement on something," he said. "But it's definitely worth some conversation to see if there is something specific that we could support and encourage action on."

What happens next?

Monday's meeting was a very early overview of legislative priorities.

In the coming weeks and months, the council will dig in more intentionally on what it wants to recommend before approving a final list of priorities in December.

The 2024 legislative session will kick off in January.