Mayors, governor say day care is killing them

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Mayors, governor say day care is killing them

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Incheon Mayor Song Young-gil (left), Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon (center), and Gyeonggi Governor Kim Moon-soo at a joint press conference yesterday at the Press Center in Jung District, central Seoul.[NEWSIS]

The mayors of Seoul and Incheon and the Gyeonggi governor yesterday demanded the central government increase its financial support for the new, free day care programs, saying they can’t afford the bills.

They urged the government revise laws to give more subsidies to local governments and said they will ask President Park Geun-hye to meet with them if their demands aren’t satisfied soon.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, Incheon Mayor Song Young-gil and Gyeonggi Governor Kim Moon-soo held a joint press conference at the Korea Press Center in Jung District, central Seoul, to announce their joint campaign to get more money from the central government.

The revised day care law gives subsidies of 220,000 to 555,000 won ($195 to $491) to all households raising children under the age of five from this year. Previously, households raising children under the age of three and aged five received the subsidy, but for households with children aged three and four, only families in the bottom 70 percent income bracket received it.

Local governments and the central government share the cost but the mayors and governor want the central government to pay more, saying that all the political credit goes to the central government and the legislature for the new spending. They said their bills are so high the day care programs might actually have to be closed down in the middle of this summer.

The mayors and governor said the expansion of free day care added 1.4 trillion won to the budgets of all local governments nationwide this year. Seoul needs an additional 371.1 billion won, Incheon needs 57.8 billion won and Gyeonggi needs 445.5 billion won, they said.

They demanded the National Assembly and the central government pass a revised bill that has been stuck in the Legislation and Judiciary Committee of the National Assembly for seven months.

That bill requires the central government to support 40 percent of Seoul’s total budget for free day care programs, up from the current 20 percent, and to support 70 percent of the budget for Gyeonggi and Incheon.

They also demanded the central government release a 560 billion won subsidy that is already included in the country’s budget for this year.

“We agreed to meet the president to explain to her how serious a problem this is for local governments,” Seoul Mayor Park said at the press conference.

They accused the Legislation and Judiciary Committee of dereliction of duty because the bill had already been approved by the Health and Welfare Committee.

“The Legislation and Judiciary Committee should take care of the issue as soon as possible because most of the local governments are in serious financial trouble,” Incheon Mayor Song said.

All local governments are affected. Busan says it will need an additional 15.1 billion won, Daejeon needs about 52.3 billion won, North Gyeongsang’s provincial government needs about 74 billion won, South Gyeongsang needs about 54.5 billion won and North Jeolla needs about 40.3 billion won.

“Those local governments failed to drum up the necessary budget in time though the plan was announced last December,” said Lee Sang-jin, the director of the Childcare Planning Division of the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

BY KWON SANG-SOO [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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