Bush says nation can afford tax cuts

Wednesday, August 23rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PEORIA, ILL. – George W. Bush sought to spell out details of his proposed tax cut Tuesday, saying he had to do a better job of explaining the plan to voters.

Mr. Bush and his aides offered budget forecasts that he said should put to rest concerns that the nation cannot afford a tax cut without giving up vital services or gutting Social Security.

"I think when people understand I've got a lot of money that's going to be applied to different programs ... people will buy into the tax-relief program even more," Mr. Bush said on his campaign plane, a day after his Democratic opponent, Vice President Al Gore, said the Bush plan would fritter away the surplus.

According to Bush aides, the current federal budget stands at $1.8 trillion annually. Over the next 10 years, Bush aides said, the congressional budget office estimates that the budget for the same level of services will rise to $2.4 trillion.

Over that decade, the government will run a total surplus of $4.6 trillion, about half of which will be money dedicated to Social Security programs. Of the remaining $2.3 trillion, the aides said, Mr. Bush proposes a tax cut of $1.3 trillion over 10 years, leaving $1 trillion to pay for increased services and new programs.

On this week's swing through states won by Democrats in the last two presidential elections, Mr. Bush has said repeatedly that his plan, unlike Mr. Gore's, would apply to all taxpayers. In speeches, he has listed the dollar amounts that families could expect to see their tax bills shrink. For instance, he said in a rally at a Peoria airport hangar, a family of four earning $50,000 could expect a 50 percent tax reduction worth $2,000.

Mr. Gore has proposed cutting $500 billion over 10 years, with cuts closely targeted for specific purposes. He argues that Mr. Bush's across-the-board plan would largely benefit wealthy taxpayers. Mr. Bush's staff said that is true only to the degree that the wealthy pay more taxes.

After the Peoria rally, the Republican congressman from Illinois who introduced Mr. Bush said the public remains to be sold on the tax cut, which he termed "very ambitious."

"I think it does resonate with people," said U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood. "But I think the issue of paying down the debt also resonates with people, and hopefully that'll become a part of the campaign theme, too."

Mr. LaHood said many Americans find the Bush tax cut proposal "problematic," but a Bush aide said it would remain a mainstay of his message.

"He's going to continue to talk about it every day for the rest of this campaign,'' said spokeswoman Karen Hughes, adding that the proposal is one of the governor's priorities for the country.

Ms. Hughes said that Mr. Gore's proposed spending would use up the surplus and then some. She cited a study just released by the National Taxpayers Union, which said that programs proposed by Mr. Gore would cost $2.3 trillion over the next decade, exhausting the surplus and incurring a deficit of $161 billion.

Gore spokeswoman Kym Spell said she had not seen the study referred to and so could not comment. But she said: "Mr. Bush has spent the last two days trying to explain his own massive tax cut for the wealthy. He's clearly gotten the word from the American people that they don't think that a huge tax cut for the rich is the best way to spend our surplus."

Mr. Bush continued to emphasize education on his Midwest swing, visiting two schools Tuesday and pushing his previous proposal to beef up early reading education with $5 billion in federal money.