- The Washington Times - Monday, January 6, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 (UPI) — House Democrats Monday offered a pre-emptive strike against President Bush's economic stimulus package by proposing a competing series of tax rebates, aid to states and extended benefits for the unemployed. Bush is due to unveil a larger series of tax cuts in a Tuesday speech in Chicago.

The plan offered Monday by new Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California and other senior Democratic lawmakers would put $136 billion into the economy immediately, rather than helping out the rich with $600 billion over 10 years, as they claim the president is proposing.

Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., who is the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said the first order of business should be the extension of unemployment benefits for 800,000 out-of-work Americans whose benefits expired Dec. 28.

"It's just shameful" that the last Congress did not extend the benefits, he said. "Our Republican colleagues have only extended these benefits once … (And on Dec. 28) cut them off callously."

He said the House should immediately consider a bill backed by Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., which would extend these benefits for an additional 26 weeks.

"This should be passed by the end of this week," he added.

Instead of Bush's proposed repeal of taxes on stock dividends, which Democrats called useless because of the collapsing stock market, they suggested a one-time tax rebate similar to the $300 sent to each taxpayer in 2001 as a much better way to jump-start the economy.

In addition to these cornerstones, the plan would include one-time tax write-offs for small businesses looking to invest in new workers, training or equipment. This would better stimulate the economy than a tax cut for investors in the stock market, Spratt said.

They will also propose legislation that would send aid money to states facing ever-tightening Medicaid budgets to help supply health care to the poor. Currently, numerous states face major budget shortfalls for Medicaid due to high unemployment.

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