Bush: Keep tax cuts

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WASHINGTON (AP) – As many Americans rush to file their income tax returns, President Bush pushed Congress on Saturday to pass legislation to make his tax cuts permanent.

“Monday is Tax Day, and that means many of you are busy finishing up your tax returns,” Bush said in his weekly radio address. “The good news is that this year Americans will once again keep more of their hard-earned dollars because of the tax cuts we passed in 2001 and 2003.”

Bush credits the tax cuts for the nation’s economic growth. The president, who is shouldering low job-approval ratings, has been emphasizing the nation’s 4.7 percent unemployment rate for March. This latest snapshot of the U.S. job market suggests an accelerating economic expansion is putting companies in the mood to hire.

Democrats argue that the economy is not working for millions of Americans because wages remain flat, health care costs are high and people are paying more for heating oil and gasoline.

They claim that tax cuts alone cannot help secure the economic futures of middle-class Americans, and that they are irresponsible in light of the costs of the war in Iraq and other pressing issues.

Bush said his administration has helped American families by lowering rates and doubling the child credit, reducing the marriage penalty and cutting taxes on small businesses.

“Tax relief has done exactly what it was designed to do: It has created jobs and growth for the American people,” he said. “Yet some here in Washington are now proposing that we raise taxes, either by repealing the tax cuts or letting them expire.”

House and Senate Republicans have suspended talks on a bill to keep tax cuts for capital gains and dividends in place for two additional years.

They had hoped to cement a deal before the April 17 tax filing deadline on Monday. Lawmakers expect to restart negotiations after their current spring break ends later this month.

The tax cuts that reduced the top rate for capital gains and dividends to 15 percent are a centerpiece of Bush’s tax policy. They are set to expire at the end of 2008. The bill being discussed would keep them in place through 2010.

If they expire, the top tax rate for capital gains would increase to 20 percent and dividends would be taxed at marginal tax rates as high as 39.6 percent.

“An important debate is taking place in Washington over whether to keep these tax cuts in place or to raise your taxes,” he said. “For the sake of American workers and their families, and for our entrepreneurs, I believe Congress needs to make the tax relief permanent.”

Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney beat the tax-filing deadline this year with starkly different returns.

According to information released by the White House on Friday, the president and first lady Laura Bush paid $187,768 on income of $735,180. Cheney and his wife, Lynne, made more than 10 times as much, but are entitled to a $1.9 million refund.

AP-ES-04-15-06 0351EDT

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