COLUMBUS, Ohio – Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search) said Wednesday he would create a federal program that would pay to keep schools open until early evening to help working parents.
Kerry, visiting an after-school and summer school program center, said he would spend an additional $1.5 billion on after-school programs. He said he would get the money for keeping schools open until 6 p.m. from repealing President Bush's tax cuts for people earning more than th-the-store tax break, but a whole bunch of kids who need to have after-school adult input aren't getting it."
Kerry also wants to give parents more money to help cover child care costs, to the tune of $20 billion over 10 years.
Kerry says he would raise the child and dependent care tax credit to cover up to $5,000 in expenses, up from the $3,000 maximum. He would extend the benefit to some parents who currently are not eligible, including stay-at-home parents and some in lower-income families who cannot get the nonrefundable credit because they do not owe any tax.
Kerry announced the new spending on child care and after-school programs during a campaign stop in Ohio on Wednesday before heading back to Washington for private meetings. Kerry's campaign was coy about whom the Massachusetts senator would see during four hours in his Capitol office, but several possible vice presidential candidates will be close by if he decides to hold any interviews.
"He's meeting with colleagues," was all Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter would say.
Kerry has just six weeks until the Democratic National Convention (search), where he and his running mate are to be nominated for the ticket. But he remains tightlipped about his choice.
Possible selections from Capitol Hill include Rep. Dick Gephardt (search) of Missouri and Sens. John Edwards (search) of North Carolina, Bob Graham (search) of Florida and Evan Bayh (search) of Indiana. Govs. Tom Vilsack (search) of Iowa and Kathleen Sebelius (search) of Kansas, also mentioned as possible picks, will also be in Washington to talk about problems of the uninsured.
Although Vilsack's staff said Wednesday he would not meet with Kerry, the governor was coy about his plans, telling reporters at a separate news conference, "You need to ask Sen. Kerry about his schedule." Sebelius said she was not meeting with the Democratic candidate.
Sen. John McCain (search), R-Ariz., who has been asked for months whether he would join the Kerry ticket, said Wednesday he has never been offered the job of Kerry's running mate and would not accept such a position. He declined to comment on whether he and Kerry had discussed a unity ticket. The Associated Press reported that discussions ended last week with McCain rejecting Kerry's request to consider being his running mate.
"I promise you I will not be vice president of the United States," McCain told NBC's "Today." The Arizona Republican said he will campaign for President Bush's re-election.
Kerry's campaign said that under his child care tax credit plan, a couple earning $60,000 and spending $10,000 on child care for two children would get an additional $800 cut.
The credit is available for child care expenses for children up to age 13, as well as for care for dependents with disabilities. Parents currently can get a credit for up to 35 percent of their first $3,000 in expenses for one child or $6,000 in expenses for two or more children. The percentage of expenses that can be credited decreases with higher incomes, so middle-class families typically can claim 20 percent.
Kerry said he would pay for the expanded credit by closing certain corporate tax loopholes, raising $20 billion over 10 years. Kerry policy adviser Robert Gordon said about $8 billion would be spent on raising the limit to $5,000; details of how the rest of the money would be distributed among stay-at-home parents and lower-income families would be determined later.
Kerry pledged to increase federal support for after-school programs from its present level of $1 billion to $2.5 billion in 2007. Kerry's campaign said his after-school plan would serve 3.5 million children, an increase of more than 2 million children from the level today.
The Bush campaign said Kerry voted against Bush's tax-cut package, which included a $1,000-per-child tax credit. Kerry has said he wants to keep the child tax credit while rolling back other tax cuts.