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Lieberman Sees a High-Tech Answer to Growth

In California, the Democratic presidential hopeful says he would aid the industry with tax cuts to spur the economy. He picks up some key endorsements.

May 29, 2003|Mark Z. Barabak | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — Campaigning in California on Wednesday, Democratic presidential hopeful Joseph I. Lieberman unveiled a plan to boost the economy by lifting the sagging high-tech industry through targeted tax cuts and increased federal spending on research and math and science programs.

The senator from Connecticut outlined his plans in a speech at UC San Diego while picking up the endorsement of several prominent Silicon Valley business leaders, including venture capitalist John Doerr, a major ally of the Clinton administration.

Today, Lieberman is set to receive the endorsement of Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante -- one of the nation's most-prominent elected Latino officials -- at a stop in Santa Monica. The joint appearance is part of a burst of campaign activity across California, as several Democratic contenders scour the state for money and support during the congressional Memorial Day recess.

Lieberman, the party's 2000 vice presidential nominee, used a morning speech in San Diego to offer the first part of a "comprehensive economic agenda" that he promised to lay out over the next several months. The senator said innovation could serve as a renewed engine for economic growth, the way creative forces of the "new economy" did in the 1990s, when family incomes grew nationwide and more than 20 million jobs were created.

"We can do all that without an expensive new government bureaucracy, without big federal mandates or complicated laws and regulations," Lieberman said. "They're the old way of doing business. The new path to economic progress in America is innovation."

To achieve his goal of more jobs, greater productivity and higher incomes, Lieberman proposed:

* Investment tax credits of 20% for businesses that purchase new information technology.

* Elimination of the capital gains tax for new investments in small companies.

* Doubling the funding for the National Science Foundation, to encourage research and development, and making permanent the federal research and development tax credit.

* A national effort to recruit and retain more qualified math and science teachers, and to expand the country's science and engineering work force.

"George W. Bush has sapped our schools of the funding they need to produce a new generation of innovation leaders," Lieberman said, in one of several swipes at the president's economic stewardship. "That may help him finance his tax cut today, but tomorrow we'll all pay the price."

The Lieberman campaign placed an $80-billion price tag on his proposals, evenly split between tax cuts and increased spending on research and development.

The cost would be financed by repealing upper-income portions of President Bush's tax cut that have yet to take effect, a spokesman said.

Shortly after he spoke at UC San Diego, Lieberman was endorsed by a dozen high-tech luminaries, who were tethered via telephone in a conference call arranged by the senator's campaign. "Joe Lieberman really gets it," Doerr said.

The endorsement of Doerr -- one of high-tech's major political players -- was a plum for Lieberman, who has won friends in the industry by fighting tighter accounting rules for stock options, a favored form of compensation in the Silicon Valley.

Lieberman -- whose fundraising has fallen behind some of the other top-tier Democratic hopefuls -- said in a phone interview between campaign stops that the endorsements and money he expects to bring away from his California swing "mean momentum, both politically and financially."

While Lieberman hopscotched from San Diego to Silicon Valley, other Democrats also were in California pursuing their party's nomination.

Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina was in San Francisco, addressing 500 members of the city's bar association. Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri spent Wednesday night at the home of Hollywood producer Lawrence Bender, who corralled singer Tony Bennett for a special fund-raising performance. And Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio has been motoring on a bus tour across the state.

Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts campaigned earlier this week in the Bay Area, while Sen. Bob Graham of Florida is due to arrive in the state shortly for several days of fund-raising.

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