Bush Outlines Plan for Working Poor
By GLEN JOHNSON
.c The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (April 11) - George W. Bush outlined a plan Tuesday to give the working poor credits for health insurance and rental vouchers for home down payments.
He also said he plans to offer tax credits for banks that match the savings deposits of poor people.
Called his a ``New Prosperity Initiative,'' the $42 billion plan expands on tax-cut and education proposals previously offered by the all-but-official Republican presidential nominee and continues his outreach to independents and moderate Democratic voters by talking about subjects often ignored by Republican candidates.
``At the edges of affluent communities, there are those living in prosperity's shadow,'' Bush said in remarks prepared for afternoon delivery to community and church leaders.
``The same economy that is a miracle for millions of Americans is a mystery for millions as well, Americans who live in a world above welfare assistance but beneath prosperity's promise,'' he said.
One part of his plan: expand home ownership by giving participants in the Section 8 rental voucher program permission to get a year's worth of vouchers in a lump sum for a home down payment.
Another element: provide a credit of up to $2,000 per family to cover 90 percent of health insurance costs for those who do not qualify for government-sponsored programs such as Medicaid, yet do not receive insurance from their employers.
``It is true that government can undemine upward mobility, as welfare once did,'' Bush said. ``It is equally true that government - active but limited government - can promote the rewards of work. It can take the side of individual opportunity.''
The Texas governor was unveiling his proposal during an afternoon speech to about 250 community and church leaders on Cleveland's West Side - a heavily Democratic area.
``With the same energy and activism that others have brought to expanding government, we must expand opportunity'' by targeting those ``between poverty and prosperity,'' Bush said.
The Democratic National Committee, a vessel for the Democratic presidential contender, Vice President Al Gore, criticized Bush as he visited a job training center known as ``El Barrio'' immediately before his speech.
El Barrio is a nonprofit social service agency that offers a range of services to the city's Hispanic community, including job training, transportation and translations.
The Democrats cited a January report by the Texas state auditor that found ``gross fiscal mismanagement'' in the administration of a $201 million ``Smart Jobs'' fund overseen by the state Department of Economic Development.
``With a dismal job training record like his in Texas, it's no wonder that Bush had to travel to Ohio to even talk about the issue,'' said a committee statement.
During his tour of El Barrio Tuesday, Bush visited a classroom where students were using a computer to write resumes and job-application letters, an English class and a class where Hispanic adults were learning to be bilingual bank tellers.
Bush posed for photographs with the students and laughed when one student from Peru asked him where his cowboy hat was.
``I left it at home,'' he replied.
A new CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll shows that Bush has pulled slightly ahead of Gore in the campaign. He was supported by 50 percent of likely voters compared to 41 percent for Gore, up from a poll taken March 30-April 2 which showed the two in a statistical dead heat with Bush at 46 percent and Gore at 45 percent.
Gore has criticized Bush's five-year, $483 billion tax cut proposal as a ``risky tax scheme'' that leaves nothing for other government spending and Social Security. Bush, however, sees it as an underpinning for many of his other proposals.
He also casts his education proposals, including a recently announced $5 billion literacy program, as efforts to help the poor achieve middle class prosperity
The Bush campaign said the four-point, New Prosperity Initiative would:
Create an incentive for work by lowering the bottom tax bracket from 15 percent to 10 percent and doubling the per child tax credit from $500 per child to $1,000. Those proposals were already announced as part of Bush's tax-cut plan.
Provide access to affordable health care with a tax credit for insurance of up to $1,000 per individual earning $15,000 or less and $2,000 per family earning $30,000 or less. The campaign estimated that proposal would cost $40 billion over five years with all the other proposals costing the remaining $2 billion.
Expand home ownership by supporting legislation that would allow local public housing authorities to provide Section 8 renters up to a years' worth of vouchers in a lump sum to finance the down payment and closing costs on a house.
Other low-income renters would be helped with the ``American Dream Down Payment Fund.''
Build personal savings supporting legislation that would encourage savings through Individual Development Accounts, or matched savings accounts. Banks would receive up to $1 billion in tax credits over five years to match deposits and to allow individuals to withdraw the money tax-free to buy a first home, start a new business or pay for an education.
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