Bush Signs $70 Billion Tax Cut Extensions

By DEB RIECHMANN
The Associated Press
Wednesday, May 17, 2006; 4:41 PM

WASHINGTON -- President Bush signed a $70 billion tax-cut bill on Wednesday that Republicans hope will help them with voters as they head into the fall elections with worries about retaining control of Congress.

"Our pro-growth policies stand in stark contrast to those in Washington who believe you grow your economy by raising taxes and centralizing power," said Bush, joined at the signing ceremony by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Democrats overwhelmingly opposed the legislation, saying the tax cuts on capital gains and dividends will flow mostly to the rich.

The GOP says the tax cuts, first enacted in 2003, have created 5.2 million jobs since August 2003 and bolstered tax revenue by nearly 15 percent last year. According to the White House, the cuts have helped spur growth by keeping $880 billion in taxpayers' pockets during the past five years.

"The bill I sign today is a victory for the American taxpayers and is a strong lift for our economy," Bush said.

The bill passed the Senate last Thursday by a 54-44 vote.

The legislation provides a two-year extension of the reduced 15 percent tax rate for capital gains and dividends; it was to expire at the end of 2008.

The measure extends for one year recent changes to the alternative minimum tax to prevent that tax from snaring more upper middle-income families. The tax was designed to hit the very wealthy. Now, however, it is common for taxpayers, especially those with families in high-tax states, to pay the AMT on incomes of $100,000 and more.

The GOP sees the extensions as a chance to raise approval ratings for the president and the Republican-controlled Congress. Public opinion surveys put the ratings at their lowest points in the Bush presidency.

"With this bill," Bush said, "we're sending the American people a clear message about our policy: We're going to continue to trust the American people with their own money."

Voters will not feel the impact before the November election; for investors, it will be until the next president is about to take office, in 2009.

Democrats say the cuts favor the wealthy and even oil companies. They point to other tax breaks that are languishing in the Senate _ for college tuition, state and local sales taxes and research and-development. Each expired in December.


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