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Statement on Proposed Child-Care Legislation

March 15, 1989

Child care is one of the key issues facing the Nation. All of us -- business, labor, nonprofit organizations, and governments at all levels -- must play a role in helping families meet this important challenge. Our policy must have the family as its focus. We must put choices in the hands of parents and not in the hands of government. Increasing the range of child care options available to parents, particularly those who head families of modest means, will benefit the Nation's children, their parents, and the country as a whole.

Today I am transmitting to the Congress legislation to fulfill my commitment to child care. These legislative proposals will help us to invest in the future by investing in our children. When I presented my plan for "Building a Better America" on February 9, I urged that we help working families cope with the burden of child care. The legislative proposals I am forwarding to Congress today recognize that even at a time of fiscal restraint we can invest in priorities. These proposals implement ideas that I put forward to the American public during the campaign. These proposals were debated and contested, and the American people spoke.

My legislative proposals are based on four fundamental principles that must guide the Federal Government's role in child care:

First, parents are best able to make decisions about their children and should have the discretion to do so. Assistance should go directly to parents. They, not the government, should choose the child care they consider best for their children.

Second, Federal policy should not discriminate against families in which one parent works at home to care for their children.

Third, Federal policy should increase, not decrease, the range of choices available to parents. The Federal Government should not become involved in licensing decisions, and Federal financial support should not be made contingent upon State licensing decisions. Local governments are perfectly capable of addressing licensing issues. Churches play a vital role in making child care available. Neighbors and other family members can provide excellent care. Our policy should not discriminate against them.

Fourth, Federal support for child care should be targeted to the most in need -- low and moderate income families -- particularly those with young children, because they face the greatest difficulty in meeting the needs of their children. Our plan will benefit all low income working families with children, not just those who participate in government-sponsored child care.

These are the principles which underlie my proposals. These are the principles by which I will evaluate the congressional deliberations on my plan. I will be flexible in the details, but firm in my devotion to these principles.

The legislation submitted today will expand child-care assistance to low-income families by making a refundable tax credit available to families with children under age 4. The tax credit would equal 14 percent of earnings up to a maximum of $1,000 per child. The maximum credit would be phased out gradually, initially for families with incomes between $8,000 and $13,000, and by 1994 for incomes between $15,000 and $20,000. I propose to make the current dependent-care credit refundable so that low-income families with no income tax liability would still be eligible for assistance.

I am also proposing to expand the resources available to the Head Start Program by $250 million over the current level. This expansion would increase the range of child care choices available to poor families and meet my commitment to include more poor 4-year-olds in this program. In fiscal year 1990 these funds would extend the ladder of opportunity to as many as 95,000 more children who most need the assistance Head Start offers.

In addition, I have directed the Secretary of Labor to determine the extent to which market barriers or failures prevent employers from obtaining liability insurance necessary to provide child care on or near their employees' worksites.

At the center of my plan is parental choice. The future of this country is in the hands of its families. To the extent we can make their burden lighter and enable them to pursue the path they find best, we will be building a better America. I urge the Congress to act promptly on this legislation.

Note: A fact sheet entitled "Building a Better America: President Bush's Child-Care Proposal" was issued by the Office of the Press Secretary on March 15. In addition to covering the material found in this statement, the fact sheet also contained the following points:

"The [new child tax] credit would be provided in addition to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and would be available, as the EITC is, in advance as a payment in parents' paychecks.

"The current [dependent-care tax] credit would be an alternative to the new child credit. For each eligible child, parents could claim the one credit that best meets their needs and circumstances.

"The cost of the two [tax credit] proposals is estimated at $187 million for FY 1990, increasing to $2.5 billion by FY 1993."

George Bush, Statement on Proposed Child-Care Legislation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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