ATLANTA -- Gov. Roy Barnes on Thursday announced plans for new tax incentives for businesses to provide on-site child care.
After reading to a group of about 15 prekindergarten children at Capitol Hill Day Care Center, Mr. Barnes told reporters he will file legislation today proposing about $20 million a year worth of tax credits.
"We think this proposal is one of the best in the nation," the governor said. "We're going to do whatever is necessary ... to help give businesses day care that is on site and close enough for a coffee-break visit."
Mr. Barnes called for expanded day care during his campaign last year. However, state tax incentives to create on-site day care have flopped.
Last year, only a handful of companies took the state up on its offer to provide tax credits if businesses had on-site day care, the governor said.
Mr. Barnes' plan calls for increasing the current tax credit from 50 percent to 75 percent of the cost an employer incurs for providing on-site child care or for sponsoring child care for his employees.
The state would also provide a new tax credit to businesses that construct on-site child-care facilities for children of their employees. Over 10 years, a company could get tax credits worth the entire cost of construction.
State officials estimate the tax credits will cost $20 million a year.
But Mr. Barnes said day care is essential in two-income households, and on-site facilities will help businesses retain workers.
"There are certain things that are so grounded in good public policy that they ought to be funded," he told reporters.
Mr. Barnes also said officials will begin studying ways to create on-site child-care centers like the Capitol Hill facility for state employees.
There are about 92,000 state employees scattered across Georgia, with large concentrations in Atlanta, Augusta, Athens, Savannah, Macon and Columbus.
Gina Gassert, a Department of Insurance staffer, said state workers pay $130 a week per child at the Capitol Hill facility, which is located next to an employee parking garage.
"I love it," said Ms. Gassert, who takes her son Jacob to the center three times a week. "If there is an emergency, I'm five minutes away."
Senate Minority Leader Eric Johnson, R-Savannah, said he likes the idea of tax credits rather than creating a government program.
"I always favor tax credits over new government spending," Mr. Johnson said. "To the extent this provides more people, particularly women, with access to the work force, I support it."