SOUTH PORTLAND (AP) – Deputy Commerce Secretary Samuel Bodman traveled to Maine to promote President Bush’s $550 billion tax cut package on the home turf of Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Republican who has opposed the size of the proposal.

Snowe, who sits on the Senate Finance Committee, last week provided the key vote in a preliminary move by the Senate to limit any tax cuts to $350 billion.

The president had originally sought $726 billion in tax cuts over 10 years, but on Tuesday he scaled the plan back to $550 billion, the amount tentatively approved by the House.

For her part, Snowe hasn’t given any indication she’s changing her mind.

In South Portland on Tuesday, Bodman did not directly criticize or cajole Snowe. But he laid out the president’s case for tax cuts in a luncheon speech sponsored by the Greater Portland Chambers of Commerce.

The Bush package would help the country recover from recession, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the war, he said.

The package includes elimination of the “marriage penalty” for joint filers, speedier implementation of the full $1,000 per-child tax credit and an end to double-taxing corporate stock dividends.

Bodman was one of 25 administration officials sent around the country to promote the president’s plan.

He conceded that the tax cuts will increase the federal budget deficit, but said the deficit today represents less than 3 percent of the gross domestic product.

Snowe, who carries a critical vote in the closely divided Senate, welcomes Bodman to Maine, a spokesman said.

“(Snowe) happens to agree with a large chunk of the president’s tax package, but she feels we should draw the line,” spokesman Dave Lackey said.

Calls to the Maine Democratic Party offices for comment on Bodman’s visit were not returned Tuesday afternoon.

AP-ES-04-16-03 0216EDT

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