- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 25, 2003

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle called yesterday for one-time rebates of $300 per person, as much as $1,200 per family, as the centerpiece of Senate Democrats' economic stimulus plan.

The plan is a counterproposal to the one put forth by President Bush earlier this month and is designed to give Democrats an alternative to rally around as Congress debates how to pump up the economy and reverse the rising rate of unemployment.

"Our broad-based tax cut alone would pump twice as much money into the economy this year as the entire Bush plan. That's the common-sense way to get the economy going," Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, told the City Club of Cleveland, where he presented his plan.

Under the one-year, $140 billion plan, based on the family's income, each parent could qualify for $300, and as many as to two children per family could qualify for $300 each, for a maximum of $1,200.

It would include any family that earns income, including those who earn too little to pay federal income taxes. Checks would be mailed out this year, similar to the 2001 tax rebates.

Mr. Bush's plan, meanwhile, calls for spending $674 billion over 10 years, with a centerpiece tax cut that eliminates the taxes paid on corporate dividends and speeds up parts of the 2001 tax cut package.

But Mr. Daschle said the Bush plan is weighted to help wealthy families, and won't solve the immediate need to jump-start the economy.

"The dividend tax cut may have some academic appeal, but it won't generate growth. It may even weaken some sectors. It will deepen the states' fiscal crises," he said.

His plan is similar to ones proposed by House Democrats and by Democratic governors, all of which offer a one-time tax break and also direct money to states to address their own fiscal problems.

Still, Republicans are predicting that Democrats won't be able to unite behind a plan and thus repeat what happened in 2001, when a dozen Senate Democrats voted for the $1.35 trillion tax-cut package.

"There are many Democrat plans on taxes. There's no unified Democrat position," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said yesterday.

"There is, I think, a growing movement on the Hill in support of what the president has proposed," he said. "There will likely be amendments to it. But the president is confident that the core of it will move forward rather nicely."

Jim Dyke, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said it will be more difficult for Democrats to unite behind a plan this year than in 2001, given the politics of the presidential primary, and the three senators and one congressman running for the Democratic nomination.

"It makes it difficult for any one person to lead the entire pack," he said.

Some Democrats have said they will not support any tax cuts at this time, and others have said they haven't ruled out supporting the president's plan. On the other side, though, several Senate Republicans have expressed reservations about or opposition to Mr. Bush's plan.

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