- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 22, 2009

President Obama trumpeted the paycheck tax cut portion of his economic-stimulus plan Saturday morning, also using his weekly radio address to preview his first federal budget, which he said would be “sober” and mindful of the deficit.

Mr. Obama said the fiscal year 2010 budget he will submit to Congress on Thursday will be “sober in its assessments, honest in its accounting.” The blueprint for all the federal government’s spending “lays out in detail my strategy for investing in what we need, cutting what we don´t, and restoring fiscal discipline,” the president said.

He also said that thanks to the $787 billion stimulus he signed into law Tuesday in Denver, the average American worker will get an extra $65 per month starting April 1.

“Because of what we did, 95 percent of all working families will get a tax cut - in keeping with a promise I made on the campaign,” he said.

Mr. Obama said that starting Saturday morning, the Treasury Department will direct employers to reduce the amount of taxes withheld from paychecks, translating to the $65 average monthly increase.

“Never before in our history has a tax cut taken effect faster or gone to so many hard-working Americans,” the president said.

The president thanked mayors, governors and the Democratic members of Congress who approved his stimulus plan with the help of just three Republican senators.

“Because of what we did together, there will now be shovels in the ground, cranes in the air, and workers rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges and repairing our faulty levees and dams,” he said.

At the opening of their meeting Saturday in Washington, the nation’s governors mostly returned the compliment.

Gov. Edward G. Rendell, Pennsylvania Democrat and chairman of the National Governors Association, said the bill’s funds for such state services as health care and education “stops us from having massive layoffs and incredible reduction in services that would have exposed our citizens to tremendous personal risks.”

A few Republican governors, though, have critized the stimulus bill as imposing too many federal strings and putting the states on the hook later for programs that the federal government will merely subsidize as they get under way. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Friday said he would refuse, on those grounds, federal funds for a program designed to expand unemployment insurance, and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said Saturday that he may do the same.

“I will oppose my state changing our rule to allow people who are not willing and able to work full time to get unemployment compensation. That will result in tax increases on our employers going forward,” Barbour said.

In Saturday’s speech, Mr. Obama touted his mortgage plan to help homeowners facing foreclosure, noted the fiscal responsibility summit he is hosting at the White House on Monday, and reminded Americans he will talk about deficit reduction in an address to Congress on Tuesday night.

He concluded with a warning that he has offered repeatedly about the road ahead being “long” and difficult, but added: “I’m confident that we, as a people, have the strength and wisdom to carry out this strategy and overcome this crisis. And if we do, our economy - and our country - will be better and stronger for it.”

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