President uses radio address, trip to push tax-cut plan

Saturday, March 3rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush returns to the road next week to ask audiences in states with Democratic senators to ``send a message in favor of tax relief'' to every member of Congress.

``After all, the surplus is your money,'' Bush said in his weekly radio address Saturday.

Bush planned a campaign-style swing through North Dakota, South Dakota, Louisiana and the Florida panhandle. He'll begin the week on Tuesday with a speech on economic issues before the Mercantile Exchange in Chicago. He has already pitched his $1.6 trillion, 10-year tax-cut plan to audiences in Pennsylvania, Iowa, Nebraska, Arkansas and Georgia.

The aim is to try to move public opinion in as many states as possible in a bid to sway votes in Congress, especially in the Senate, which is equally divided between the two parties.

``Every day, in every way, whether it's at the White House or it's in travel, the president looks at how to get his plan across to the voters so the voters can get their message to the senators and the congressmen,'' White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said Friday.

Even in the Dakotas, Fleischer added. ``In a 50-50 Senate there is no such thing as a small-populated state.''

Asked if Bush really believed he could win over South Dakota's Tom Daschle, the Senate Democratic leader, or North Dakota's Kent Conrad, the Senate Budget Committee's top Democrat, Fleischer said: ``I'm not going to start defining who's gettable and who's not gettable, but the president is going to try to build support for his plan everywhere he can.''

In the radio address, Bush told Americans he is determined ``to bring my case directly to you.''

He restated the main elements of that case, repeating themes he developed in his speech last Tuesday night to a joint meeting of Congress.

``My tax rate plan reduces income tax rates across the board, giving the largest percentage reductions to working families who need the most help,'' Bush said. ``It will boost the economy and help create new businesses, new jobs and new growth, at a time when we need all three.''

Democrats continued to hold out for a tax cut of about half the size Bush is proposing, contending that the projected 10-year surplus on which it is based may have evaporated by the time it is needed.

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``If we bet the budget on these 10-year projections and they don't pan out, we can put the budget right back in the red again,'' said Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina, senior Democrat on the House Budget Committee.

Delivering the Democratic radio response Saturday, Spratt argued the case for a smaller, $900 billion tax cut with more money earmarked for such popular but expensive proposals as prescription drug coverage under Medicare.

Spratt said Bush's plan provides little margin of error if the surplus projections prove wrong, leaves too little room for spending priorities such as education and defense and ``leaves nothing to meet our long-term liabilities to Social Security and Medicare.''

``We may be sitting on an island of surpluses, but we are surrounded by a sea of debt ...,'' he said.

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Democrats on Thursday unveiled their own tax package, entailing $725 billion in tax cuts over 10 years and reaching $900 billion if increased interest on the debt is added.

Their plan reduces the lowest income tax rate from 15 percent to 12 percent, gives relief to married couples penalized under current tax law, frees more individuals and small businesses from the estate tax and provides cuts in payroll taxes for low-income people who pay little or no income tax.