about $11 an hour on average in Montana, and are being lured away by jobs in retail.

Using federal stimulus funds, Montana has capped child-care costs for low-income families at $10 a month. But the federal support will disappear by the end of 2024, and Senator Bogner predicted that state lawmakers were more likely to loosen regulations than they were to provide more funds.

He argued that stimulus money had artificially heated up the child-care market — though affordability and supply problems predated the pandemic. He acknowledged that many workers in his district cannot afford market-rate child care, and said families must “make some serious choices on whether they want to have children or not.”

In Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, signed a bill on Thursday, over Democratic opposition, that raises the number of children a single adult is allowed to supervise at a child-care center. There can now be seven 2-year olds per adult instead of six — exceeding national recommendations — and 10 3-year olds instead of eight. The measure also allows 16-year-olds to provide care without adult supervision for up to 15 children over the age of 5.

Liberal states have tended to take a different, sometimes much more expensive route. This fall, voters in New Mexico will consider an amendment to the state constitution that would earmark a percentage of state oil and gas revenue for early childhood education, which would provide $127 million a year.

The amendment could allow New Mexico to continue an unusually generous program: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, has made child care free through the summer of 2023 for many families earning less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $111,000 for a family of four.

The measure could also fund long-term pay raises for child-care workers.

Ivydel Natachu, 52, is one early childhood educator in Albuquerque who says she would benefit. She has 17 years of experience, was earning $10.50 an hour until 2020. She raised her own children with help from side jobs and food stamps.

With temporary federal stimulus funding propping up New Mexico’s child-care centers, she now earns $15 an hour; if the constitutional amendment passes, it could raise her pay to $18 an hour.

Ms. Natachu said that during the pandemic, she saw colleagues quit after just a few weeks on the job, lured away by easier, higher-paid jobs in other fields. She said that given their expertise in child development, child-care workers ought to be paid like public-school teachers.

“We are fighting for our professional wages,” she said.

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