INDIANAPOLIS – A Statehouse proposal aims to improve child care access by creating a tax credit for employers who help provide those services.

Senate Bill 186 would provide a tax credit to business owners who provide child care to their employees by opening their own center. Some small businesses could also qualify by paying for tuition at a center that already exists.

The tax credit would cover up to 50% of expenses.

“Doing the right thing can be expensive, and it can be a long, bureaucratic process,” said Miriel McFarland, a co-owner of Instrumental Machine & Development, which manufactures orthopedic instruments in Warsaw.

McFarland testified in support of the bill at the Statehouse Thursday. The lack of child care access in her area is why some people have left her company or declined a job offer, she said.

“We are lacking 1,200 to 1x,800 seats in Kosciusko County,” McFarland explained. “It’s a child care desert.”

Her business decided to open its own child care center. The company owns the building, works with a provider to operate the center and pays nearly two-thirds of each child’s tuition, she said. The center opened in January.

“Imagine if more companies were to engage in something like this and how welcoming a city like Warsaw would be,” McFarland said.

That’s the goal behind Senate Bill 186, according to State Sen. Kyle Walker (R-Fishers), the bill’s author.

“The real issue here is to try to increase capacity because capacity is where we’re really lacking right now,” Walker said.

But some say the legislation is only one step toward improving child care access.

State Sen. Fady Qaddoura (D-Indianapolis), a co-author on the bill, said he would like to see lawmakers do more to expand capacity, targeting child care deserts like rural areas.

“My priority would be to focus the initial phase, the initial investments by the state of Indiana on areas where there’s desperate need before we open it to all communities across the state who might not need it in the same way,” Qaddoura said.

Walker said he is planning to introduce some changes to the bill, including a potential cap on the tax credit. The Senate Appropriations committee could vote on the bill as soon as next week.