Clinton Touts Child Care Plan

President Clinton called on Congress Tuesday to pass legislation that would aid poor families struggling to give their children quality child care.

In an address at the Housatonic Community Technical College in Bridgeport, Conn., Mr. Clinton touted the need for better child care nationwide.

Mr. Clinton said he came to visit the college because it has developed the kind of child care system he would like to see implemented throughout the country.

"What I see here today is what I believe every child in America needs," President Clinton said.

Mr. Clinton's proposal would provide tax credits to help parents pay for day care. The $21.7 billion plan would also offer tax incentives for businesses to provide child care for their employees.

About half the children at the Housatonic Community Technical College in Bridgeport, Conn., are from single-parent homes, one-third from poor families.

The Housatonic program has 47 preschoolers, ages 3 to 5, about half of whom are the children of faculty, staff or students at the college.

They're just the type of kids that President Clinton said he hoped would benefit from his new plan.

President Clinton cited the strength of the economy, and the growth of opportunities in the work place, saying "the American dream is now in reach for more and more families, and that is a very good thing."

But Mr. Clinton sent a strong message to Congress that they should act within the next 70 days-before they recess for the summer--to pass legislation that would improve child care.

"We do not need to wait another year just because this is an election year. We need to do this now," the president said.

To highlight the importance of early learning, Mr. Clinton Monday ordered improvements in federally sponsored child care facilities, such as ensuring that all centers are fully accredited and that proper background checks have been conducted on employees.

The president also ordered that federal workers be given full information on which child care benefits and options are available to them.

His order covers 1,024 federal centers, including 788 run by the military, 109 by the General Services Administration and 127 by other departments. They serve about 215,000 children.

Mr. Clinton noted a new report by the Department of Health and Human Services which shows that, due to constrained resources, states have set eligibility levels for child care subsidies far below what is allowed by federal law.

President Clinton also called on Congress to act on tobacco legislation this year, and devote some funding to an effort to prevent teen-agers from smoking. He will take up the youth smoking issue again on Thursday in a speech at the White House before the National Association of Attorneys General.

The president also plans to address a fund-raising luncheon Monday by the Democratic Business Council in Westport, Conn., before departing for Cincinnati to spek at a private fund-raiser hosted by Stanley Chesley, an attorney who has represented smokers in lawsuits against the tobacco industry.

The two events were expected to raise $850,000, said Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Melissa Bonney.

©1998 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report