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BUSH trumpets tax cut success

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Reveling in his big tax cut, President Bush plans to unwind at his Texas ranch before embarking on a set of potentially contentious meetings with European leaders.

Bush was set to remind an audience at a farm near Des Moines, Iowa, on Friday that his 10-year tax cut will eventually eliminate the estate tax, an issue of concern to those who inherit family farms.

Aides said the Des Moines farm is the same one Bush visited in Sept. 1, 1999, as a Republican presidential candidate to outline his agriculture policies and call for elimination of the estate tax. Three months later, he returned to Des Moines to propose a five-year, $483 billion tax-cut package _ the genesis of the bill he signed Thursday.

Bush also planned to attend the college baseball world series in Omaha, Neb.

Signing the tax cut into law on Thursday, Bush said an estimated 96 million taxpayers can expect refund checks this summer.

The checks for as much as $600 will arrive just in time to help pay back-to-school expenses, the president said.

The full effect of the cut will take a decade to be realized, and it falls short of the $1.6 trillion the president originally proposed during last year's presidential campaign.

But Bush believes there is ample cause for celebration. Passage of the legislation on May 26 marked the biggest legislative victory in Bush's presidency to date.

In addition to the refund checks, gradual income tax rate cuts, and eventual ending of the estate tax, the measure eases the marriage penalty paid by millions of two-income couples, gradually doubles the $500 child credit and contains breaks for increased savings for retirement and education.

While the bill got significant Democratic support, most Democrats criticized it as far too large to meet other national priorities, such as increased spending on education and a Medicare prescription drug benefit.

They contended it remains unfairly tilted toward the wealthiest 1 percent of taxpayers, even though several provisions were added by Senate moderates to benefit lower-income people.

After spending two days at his Crawford, Texas ranch, the president departs Monday night for a weeklong European trip with stops in Madrid, Spain; Warsaw, Poland; Brussels, Belgium; Ljubljana, Slovenia; and Goteborg, Sweden.

In meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and NATO and European Union allies, Bush expects to meet strong international opposition to his pledge to build an anti-missile shield. He also is likely to meet pressure not to abandon a 1997 agreement on global warming.

In a speech on Wednesday, Bush said he will cite common interests during the trip, reaffirming ``the ties that bind our nations in a common destiny.''

For more information, visit the IRS Web site on advance payment checks

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