Bush To Promote Tax Plan

Sunday, February 18th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) — President Bush spent Sunday relaxing on his ranch, gearing up for a week of travel designed to dampen Democratic criticisms that he cannot cut taxes without hurting popular government programs.

Bush did not venture into public Sunday, even for church. He left the ranch for a few minutes Saturday night to stop by an inaugural ball thrown at the local community center by their neighbors — at least those who live about as close as one can get to a 1,600-acre spread on the Texas prairie.

The Bushes rode in a limousine and spent about 10 minutes among the townspeople, whose attire ran the gamut from blue jeans and cowboy boots to tuxedos and gowns. Some partygoers, armed with cameras, posed beside standing cutouts of the president's parents, former President and Barbara Bush.

Bush scheduled visits this week to Ohio, Missouri and Tennessee to lay the groundwork for the budget and tax-cutting proposals he will present to Congress on Feb. 27.

Republican lawmakers warned last week that Bush's $1.6 billion tax-cut plan was in trouble. Polls show that Americans favor tax cuts, but do not want the reductions to come at the expense of popular government actions, such as school dollars and reducing the debt.

Democrats are arguing that Bush's tax cut plan would increase the debt and threaten government programs. Bush's goal is to show Americans that it is possible to have both a steep tax cut and increased funding for education.

Before any of that, though, Bush was heading to Oklahoma for the dedication of a museum at the Oklahoma City National Memorial Center, a monument to the April 19, 1995 bombing that killed 168 people, including 19 children, at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

The museum seeks to capture the sense of frenzied panic after a powerful truck bomb exploded at 9:02 a.m. that day. It displays personal effects of the victims, as well as window blinds, file cabinets and concrete mangled by the blast.

A decorated Gulf War veteran, Timothy McVeigh, was convicted and sentenced to die for the attack. McVeigh, 32, has halted his appeals and is scheduled to die by lethal injection May 16 at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. No federal prisoner has been executed in 37 years.

Congress approved $5 million to create the museum. It will be maintained through endowments, membership dues and admission fees.

The visit was setting a somber start to a week that Bush otherwise is devoting to one of his budget priorities, education.

The president has urged annual testing to better track student performance. He also has proposed pulling federal funds from public schools that fail to meet certain academic standards three years in a row, allowing those schools' students to use federal dollars toward enrolling in a better school.

On Tuesday, Bush will go to Columbus, Ohio for a discussion at Sullivant Elementary, which serves many homeless children and is focused on improving the academic scores of its students.

Bush was paying a similar school visit later Tuesday in St. Louis, and staying overnight there. Among the lawmakers joining Bush will be Rep. Bill Clay, D-Mo., a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The White House had to apologize last week to another caucus member, Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, who was not invited along on Bush's visit to a military base in her state.

On Wednesday, Bush will visit Townsend Elementary School in Knoxville, Tenn., before returning to Washington. At week's end, he will have his first meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.