Tax Credits Offered to Help Breast-Feeding Moms

By Joanne M. Haas | July 7, 2008 | 8:19 PM EDT

Madison, Wisconsin ( - Wisconsin businesses could get a tax credit of up to $10,000 per year in exchange for providing lactating mother-employees a place to pump and store their breast milk during work hours.

The bill has found widespread backing from medical and women's groups because of its health benefits, and business groups view it as a viable employee recruitment and retention tool in a state where workers are increasingly in demand.

"Wisconsin businesses continually tell me that they are having trouble recruiting and retaining good employees," said bill author Rep. Jeff Plale, a South Milwaukee Democrat. "Family-friendly businesses definitely have a competitive advantage in today's tight labor market. We all need to promote initiatives that help Wisconsin's working families."

Plale's bill would provide businesses a non-refundable income and franchise tax credit for construction or development of private facilities where breast-feeding employees could pump and store their milk during working hours. The credit would be 50 percent of the employer's cost of providing the facility.

An analysis from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau indicated the average cost of constructing or equipping such a facility to be about $7,500. This includes a high-grade breast milk pump, a small refrigerator and special seating to make the facility compliant with the Americans with Disability Act.

Since it is unknown how many businesses would participate, bureau analysts estimate if 100 employers constructed facilities at the average cost, the annual impact on the state's budget would be $280,000.

But those costs could rise to as much as $750,000 if employers were granted the maximum credit, so Plale has offered his own amendment to the bill, which would cap the program's costs at $300,000 per year.

"Businesses that support new mothers breast-feeing in the workplace are in a win-win situation," Plale said. "Healthier parents means parents use less sick time and are more productive at work, possibly even resulting in lower health care costs."

The bill has the support of the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the Wisconsin Nurses Association and the State Medical Society of Wisconsin, among others.

"Breast-feeding helps protect infants and moms from a variety of illnesses," said Wisconsin Women's Health Foundation President Sue Ann Thompson, wife of former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, who now serves as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "It also protects women against chronic diseases such as osteoporosis and breast and ovarian cancer."

A Madison newspaper reported a 1998 survey of businesses in Dane County, showed about 44 percent of all businesses already offered a private location for breast-feeding mothers.