The White House/Joyce N. Boghosia
Bush plan keys on immediate impact to economy.
The President on Jan. 18 outlined general principles about what he calls a “growth package,” emphasizing tax breaks. He says it should total about 1% of Gross Domestic Product, or about $140 billion. Bush didn’t mention infrastructure but said the plan should not include “the kind of spending projects that would have little immediate impact on our economy.” Those aren’t encouraging words for public works supporters.
Still, construction firms could benefit from the tax cuts Bush wants in the package. That may be good news for groups like the National Federation of Independent Business. It is pushing to have the stimulus plan expand the “Section 179” incentive, which lets small firms deduct the cost of such assets as heavy equipment and computer software in the year the goods are purchased. “This is the main thing that we have been focusing on,” says Bill Rys, NFIB tax counsel. He says NFIB wants Congress to hike the sum firms can “expense” from $125,000 now to $200,000 or $250,000.
Bush said the plan should have “direct and rapid income tax relief for the American people.” That could mean rebates to individuals, which would help construction firms that are partnerships or “S corporations,” and taxed at individual rates.
Democrats, who hold majorities in both houses, see stimulus as the first big 2008 bill. Their ideas about its shape will differ from Bush’s. Still, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her team have held talks with GOP leaders about a package, and would like a bill passed by mid-February.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.). and other Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Democrats would like public works funding in the stimulus. But he says there has been pushback from House leaders. There may not be many GOP allies either. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) says infrastructure is important, but may lack a short-term stimulative effect. “By the time the money gets out to the states...it’s hard to get anything moving within a year,” he says.
resident Bush and congressional leaders have moved economic stimulus to the top of the legislative priority list. They all want a program approved quickly, with provisions to pump money into the economy as soon as possible. Infrastructure advocates want to see public works funds in the package, but it seems that Bush and the House Republican leader do not. But Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacci told the House transportation panel Jan. 17 that his agency could turn around an infusion of aid around “very, very quickly,” and other states could do likewise.