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CAMPAIGN 2000

Gore to Spell Out Economic Plans

Budget: He will release a detailed blueprint meant to broaden prosperity.

September 06, 2000|EDWIN CHEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CLEVELAND — Vice President Al Gore plans to release a detailed economic agenda today that seeks to increase home ownership, boost family incomes, cut the pay gap between men and women and reduce poverty levels to near historic lows.

Gore will unveil a 191-page budget blueprint that vows to eliminate the national debt by 2012 and to set aside $300 billion in a rainy-day fund in case the widely projected budget surpluses fall short, Gore senior campaign officials said.

The key to achieving those goals, Gore believes, is his debt reduction plan. He will argue that significant debt reduction will produce lower interest rates for consumers when they borrow money to buy a house or an automobile. President Clinton also has been making this argument for months at fund-raisers and in a speech to the nation's governors earlier this year.

Gore's plan features his previously announced targeted tax cuts for middle-class families, various tax credits for expenses such as college tuitions and new retirement savings plans; an increase in the minimum wage; and stricter enforcement of anti-discrimination laws as a way to reduce the pay gap between men and women.

Gore, the Democratic presidential nominee, will lay out his sweeping agenda in a speech this morning at Cleveland State University. He also will promise to submit to Congress a balanced budget plan every year he is president.

Gore's emphasis on details--to a striking degree for a presidential candidate--is part of his strategy to pressure Republican rival George W. Bush to also release the specifics of his agenda.

Gore's unrelenting criticism of Bush for not offering a detailed plan to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare may well have been a driving force behind the Texas governor's release on Tuesday of just such a proposal. Gore immediately denounced Bush's plan as inadequate.

A Hedge of $300 Billion

A key feature of Gore's economic agenda is his proposal to set aside $300 billion as a hedge, in case the budget surplus projections over the next 10 years fall short. If there is no such shortfall, the $300-billion set-aside would be devoted to further reducing the debt.

The whopping budget surplus projections are being made by the Congressional Budget Office and the White House's Office of Management and Budget.

The CBO, assuming faster growth rates, projects a 10-year surplus of $4.4 trillion, or about $300 billion more than the OMB's projection.

A Bush spokesman dismissed Gore's $300-billion set-aside as "a political campaign gimmick."

"The facts are: Al Gore busts the budget. He spends the surplus on bigger government. And he complicates the tax code by forcing people to hire lawyers and accountants to determine if they are the lucky ones to get targeted tax relief," said Dan Bartlett.

In his ambitious economic plan, Gore seeks to double the number of families with $50,000 or more in savings by 2010 by giving families matching tax credits and tax deductions for new 401(k)-style retirement savings accounts. These accounts provide tax incentives for savings, based on a family's income. Today only one-third of families have assets at that level.

The vice president also will promise to reduce income taxes on the average family by providing $480 billion in targeted cuts aimed at helping families with child care, health care, college costs and long-term care as well as savings. As a result, the income tax burden on the average family will fall by 2002 to its lowest level in 50 years, according to Gore's blueprint. (According to the Gore campaign, an average family of four has an annual income of $47,000.)

The Gore document foresees raising family incomes by one-third over the next decade--even after inflation and taxes--as a result of paying down the debt and investing in training, technology and research, and supporting "common-sense" deregulation.

The blueprint further claims that Gore's plan will enable seven in 10 families to own a home by 2004, thanks to lower interest rates as well as strengthening of the low-income housing tax credit and the Community Reinvestment Act. Homeownership now stands at about 67% of families.

College Tuition Would Be Tax-Deductible

To increase college enrollment and graduation, Gore would make most college tuition tax-deductible, give tax credits for college savings and expand programs to help disadvantaged students enter college. Such efforts, Gore's plan predicts, would raise the college attendance rate from 67% of high school seniors to 75% by 2010. He also wants to raise from 37% to 50% the number of college-age people who obtain a degree.

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