ATLANTA -- Democratic gubernatorial candidate Thurbert Baker issued a promise today to create 100,000 jobs during his first four years in office, 25,000 in bio-tech.
Meeting reporters at an office park near Georgia Tech that caters to bio-tech firms, Baker unveiled three programs that he said have sparked job creation in other states.
One would be to issue tax credits to venture capital firms for them to sell as a way to raise $150 million. A second would be the use of $25 million in bonds to help developers construct labs and offices for the startups to use at reduced rents, and a third would sell $15 million in bonds to build incubators where the young companies could go for legal and managerial advice.
Baker said he wanted to capitalize on Georgia's strength in higher education to develop the lucrative jobs in bio-tech.
"We will make Georgia the biotechnology capital of America and a leader in the world," he said. "... We have the resources here to do it: Premier public universities like the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, the Medical College of Georgia and other units of our state university system."
While he was holding his press conference, one of his Democratic rivals, Roy Barnes, was meeting at the Capitol with other reporters to release his personal financial information as required by law of all candidates.
Barnes gave reporters 1,500 pages of financial records from the last 25 years.
"I expect my fellow candidates to do the same and release at least 10 years of tax returns," he said.
Baker said he would release the details of his own finances but said he didn't know when.
The key piece of Baker's plan is the distribution of tax credits. A private company would evaluate venture-capital firms active in the state and grant them credits that will mature in five years. Those firms would sell the credits at a discount on the open market to anyone who expects to have a large tax bill when they mature. The proceeds from those sales would become the source of funds the firms invest in promising startups.
One attractive aspect of the plan, Baker said, is that it would provide more money to these growing companies without an immediate impact on the state budget, which is expected to be especially tight in the next few years. By the time the credits mature, the state's economy will have grown enough -- partly with the jobs created by the credits -- so that the tax revenue lost to the credits wouldn't be significant enough to force a new round of budget cuts.
"We believe that within five years, because of the jobs that will be generated, we will more than recover the money that will be spent," he said.