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Bush calls for changes in marriage, estate taxes

WASHINGTON (BP)–President George W. Bush called for reduction of the tax penalty for married couples and elimination of the estate tax in his first address to a joint session of Congress Feb. 27.

In a 50-minute speech, the new president focused on his initial budget and defended his proposal for a $1.6 trillion tax cut. The increasing surplus “exists because taxes are too high and government is charging more than it needs,” Bush said. “The people of America have been overcharged and, on their behalf, I am here asking for a refund.”

He called not only for decreasing the number of tax rates from five to four but for reducing the remaining rates to 10, 15, 25 and 33 percent. His plan would enable a typical family with two children to save $1,600 a year, Bush said.

In proposing a reduction in the marriage tax penalty, Bush said the government “should not tax, and thereby discourage, marriage.” He added, “It’s not fair to tax the same earnings twice — once when you earn them and again when you die — so we must repeal the death tax.” The president also requested the child tax credit be doubled to $1,000 a child.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has called for elimination of both the marriage penalty and the estate tax, as well as a significant increase in the child tax credit.

Under the tax code’s current provisions, it has been estimated about 25 million married couples pay a yearly average of $1,400 more in taxes than they would if they lived together without being married.

Bush also proposed paying down $2 trillion in national debt during the next decade.

Among other proposals Bush has presented before and repeated in his address were:

— Education choice, including the option of private schools, for students in failing public schools.

— The ability of faith-based organizations that provide social services to apply for federal funds.

— The freedom of taxpayers who do not itemize to deduct their charitable gifts.

Bush also called for tripling funds for character education.

He announced he would appoint this spring a presidential commission to reform Social Security. The panel will make its recommendations in the fall, Bush said.

The president revealed he had sent a directive to Attorney General John Ashcroft earlier in the day calling for a review and a report on ending racial profiling.

Democratic Party leaders in Congress criticized Bush’s tax cut. They called for a $900 billion reduction in taxes.

The goals Democrats have — many that Bush mentioned in his speech — cannot be accomplished “if we spend the entire surplus on the president’s tax cut,” said Rep. Richard Gephardt, D.-Mo., minority leader of the House of Representatives. “If what the president said tonight sounded too good to be true, it probably is.”

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