- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 10, 2002

President Bush signed a long-sought economic stimulus package yesterday, saying he hopes it will spur business investment and create jobs six months after the September 11 attacks.
"We're seeing some encouraging signs in the economy, but we can't stand by and simply hope for continued recovery," the president said during a Rose Garden ceremony that included a live broadcast of his weekly radio address. "Today we are acting to help workers, we're acting to create jobs and we're acting to strengthen our economy."
The compromise bill was passed Friday by Congress after months of partisan gridlock. Three previous House-passed versions were blocked by Senate Democrats, who contended the tax breaks Mr. Bush originally sought for corporations and wealthy individuals were excessive.
Mr. Bush said the final bill will help ensure that the economy gains momentum and continues to recover from the recession.
In attendance at the event were Vice President Richard B. Cheney, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, Senate Republican leader Trent Lott of Mississippi and small- business owners and unemployed workers who will benefit from the extension of jobless benefits.
"We want a recovery that is broad enough and strong enough to provide jobs for all our citizens," Mr. Bush said.
The package extends regular 26-week unemployment benefits by 13 weeks and allows additional automatic extensions in states with high unemployment rates. It also provides businesses with a variety of tax breaks.
"This will allow those who lost their jobs in the recession, or in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, more time to pay their bills and support their families while looking for work," Mr. Bush said. "And in order for people to find jobs, businesses need to be hiring. So this new law will provide tax incentives for companies to expand and create jobs by investing in plant and equipment.
The economic stimulus bill is projected to pump $51 billion into the economy this year, $43 billion next year and $29 billion in 2004, congressional analysts say. The cost over 10 years is about $42 billion, because some tax breaks would generate government revenue in later years.
The unemployment rate unexpectedly dipped to 5.5 percent in February as businesses, after cutting payrolls for six straight months, added 66,000 new workers. It was the strongest signal yet that the country's first recession in a decade is nearing an end.
The bill also creates a "Liberty Zone" in the lower Manhattan section of New York by providing $5 billion in tax breaks over the next 10 years to help the city recover from the September 11 attacks.
New York Lt. Gov. Mary Donohue, who attended the signing ceremony, said the legislation will prove "pivotal" in the city's recovery by creating tax incentives to invest in property and hire and retain employees. "It will help big businesses, but it will also help the smaller businesses survive," Miss Donohue said.
The Senate passed the legislation by an 85-9 vote Friday, less than 24 hours after the House had passed it by 417-3.
One major reason that Republicans and Democrats were able to reach a compromise after five months of gridlock was that tomorrow marks the six-month anniversary of the attacks. In an election year, members of Congress didn't want that day to pass without acting.
Mr. Bush also noted the anniversary and the U.S. campaign to pursue those responsible for the attacks, in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
"For the families of the victims, these have been six months of sorrow, and America will never forget their loss," he said.

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