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U.S. News
Bush pushes tax cut that isn't 'little-bitty'

Friday, April 25, 2003

By James O'Toole, Post-Gazette Politics Editor

CANTON, Ohio -- With the underlying message that he's as interested in being an economic steward as a commander-in-chief, President Bush sought support for his stalled tax cut proposal yesterday in twin stops in Ohio.

President Bush pushed his tax cut plan during an appearance yesterday at the Timken Company in North Canton, Ohio. Timken, one of the largest employers in the region, makes bearings and precision components used in military and other machinery. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Associated Press)

Related story: Bush hints Iraq has destroyed chemical, biological weapons

On his 10th post-election trip to a state that he won narrowly in 2000, Bush acknowledged the slack job market of recent years and portrayed his broad package of tax cuts as its antidote.

"One of the problems we face is that not enough of our fellow Americans can find work," Bush said in a speech at the Timken Co. ball bearings plant. "For the sake of our country, for the sake of the workers of America, Congress needs to pass this jobs growth package."

He referred to a tax cut plan, with reductions of $726 billion over 10 years, that is the center of a disagreement between the two Republican-controlled chambers in Congress. The House has approved a somewhat pared-down version of the measure estimated to offer $550 billion in tax reductions. Some Senate Republicans, however, alarmed at rising federal deficit projections, have urged that the cuts be limited to $350 billion.

Among them is Sen. George Voinovich, Ohio's popular senior senator, who was conspicuously absent from the gathering of GOP officials who accompanied Bush here yesterday.

Voinovich did change his schedule to greet the president at a later stop at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, but he did not join him at a subsequent appearance at a tank factory in Lima.

"The package needs to be at least $550 billion over 10 years," Bush insisted. "[It] needs to be robust.

"Some in Congress believe that the package is too big," Bush continued. "Well, they have some explaining to do. If they agree that tax relief is important for job growth, why are they for a little, bitty relief package?"

Voinovich spokesman Scott Milburn told The Associated Press that the senator will not back any tax cut of more than $350 billion without reductions in spending, despite Bush's effort to convince his constituents otherwise.

Rebutting concerns voiced by Voinovich and others about his tax plan, Bush insisted that it would be the answer to, rather than the cause of future budget deficits, by spurring economic growth.

"Now, you hear talk about deficits. And I'm concerned about deficits. I'm sure you are, as well," Bush said. "But this nation has got a deficit because we have been through a war. And I told the American people we would spend what is necessary to win the war. We weren't going to hold back so our soldiers were -- didn't have the right equipment and the best training and the best possible pay," Bush said. "And we had an emergency and a recession, which affected the revenue growth of the U.S. Treasury."

The crowd of about 800 cheered lustily as Bush said of the Iraq War: "The world now knows we will keep our word."

Judging by the frequent applause and scattered interviews afterward, most members of the invited audience seemed receptive to the president's pitch on the economy.

"I thought it was a very positive message; I believe [the tax cuts] will help my family," said Eric Geis, a Timken employee from Canton.

Rodney Miller, an employee of Kauffman Plumbing, a subcontractor at the Timken plant, said he liked Bush's promise of tax cuts.

But, he added, "One thing I didn't hear was how we can keep health costs down so that money can stay in your pockets."

James O'Toole can be reached at jotoole@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1562.

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