Governor hopeful Baker promises 100,000 jobs

Thurbert Baker

ATLANTA --- Democratic gubernatorial candidate Thurbert Baker issued a promise Wednesday to create 100,000 jobs -- 25,000 in biotech -- during his first four years in office.

Meeting reporters at an office park near Georgia Tech that caters to biotech firms, the attorney general 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. The second would be to use $25 million in bonds to help developers construct labs and offices for the startups to use at reduced rents, and the third would be to 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 biotech jobs.

"We will make Georgia the biotechnology capital of America and a leader in the world," he said.

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.

Barnes' Worth

ATLANTA --- Former Gov. Roy Barnes threw open the books on 25 years of tax returns and other documents showing the self-described "country lawyer" has a net worth of $16.6 million.

Barnes called on his opponents to do the same. Georgia candidates must file detailed financial disclosures after qualifying, but there is no requirement they make their tax returns public. Attorney General Thurbert Baker said he planned to release his tax returns soon.

-- Associated Press

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