President Bush sought to make the case yesterday that his economic plan would create jobs and bolster consumer confidence through $59 billion in tax savings this year alone.
Further help would come from ending the dividend tax for 84 million investors, the president said in his weekly radio address. He said that tax is unfair, a drag on the economy and a burden for those who depend on dividends for a steady income.
Bush announced that he will ask Congress to approve an $842 million 2004 budget for the Securities and Exchange Commission -- nearly double the $438 million it received in 2002.
Bush also said his budget request, due on Capitol Hill at the beginning of February, will include an additional $25 million for the Justice Department to expand its corporate fraud investigations. The money would pay for 118 new FBI positions, including those for 56 agents, and 94 new employees in U.S. attorney's offices, Bush said.
Bush urged quick congressional approval for that request as well as for his $674 billion economic plan.
"Our country has made great progress in restoring investor confidence and putting the recession behind us," Bush said. "We cannot be satisfied, however, until every corporate wrongdoer is held to account, and every part of our economy is strong, and every person who wants to work can find a job."
Many Democrats contend that Bush's economic proposal rewards the wealthiest while offering only modest short-term relief to the average taxpayer.
Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lincoln D. Chafee of Rhode Island, two Republicans who dissented from Bush's across-the-board tax rate reductions in 2001, are also skeptical, as are other Republicans.
In addition, some governors fear that eliminating the tax on stock dividends could cost states billions of dollars.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson pressed the state leaders' views in the Democratic radio response. He promoted a $50 billion plan by the Democratic Governors Association to provide temporary tax relief, short-term federal assistance to deficit-burdened states, more help for workers who have lost jobs, and investments in schools and projects that would create jobs.
"Our challenge is to help Washington pass a real stimulus plan that puts money in the pockets of those who will spend the money right away -- the unemployed middle-class working families -- while recognizing the condition of cash-strapped state governments," Richardson said.