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Bush Supports Minimum Wage Boost With Tax Relief December 20, 2006

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News, White House.
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WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–President George W. Bush said he backs a boost in the federal minimum wage, but added any increase needs to be paired with tax measures that protect small business.

“I support the proposed $2.10 increase in the minimum wage over a two-year period,” Bush told reporters at a year-end press conference Wednesday. “I believe we should do it in a way that does not punish the millions of small businesses that are creating most of the new jobs in our country.”

He added, “So I support pairing it with targeted tax and regulatory relief to help these small businesses stay competitive and help keep our economy growing.”

Boosting the minimum wage from $5.15 is one of the goals new House speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., laid out for the Democrats in their first 100 hours in power next month. A Democratic effort to raise the minimum wage failed last year because it didn’t include pro-business measures satisfactory to Republican lawmakers.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., applauded Bush for supporting an increase in the wage, but said “we can’t slow down this important legislation with other priorities unrelated to the minimum wage.” He called for a “clean bill” to be passed as soon as possible.

But one top Democratic tax writer has backed the idea of tax breaks to accompany a minimum wage boost.

Incoming Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said he expects his committee will craft a package of tax breaks to benefit small businesses, which complain they will be hit hard by a minimum wage increase. In an interview with Dow Jones Newswires earlier this month, Baucus said passing a minimum wage increase without such breaks is unrealistic, and so “we’re going to have to get the committee to look at that quickly.”

Bush cast the November election results as an opportunity to forge bipartisan solutions on key domestic issues such as entitlement spending, immigration and education. He said he understood that the message of the elections, which ousted Republicans from control of both houses of Congress, is that Americans are tired of partisanship. He pledged to work with Pelosi and incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and urged Americans to help maintain the economy’s current vigor by shopping more.

The president also renewed his call for a reform in the appropriations process, saying the government needs to curb wasteful spending and shine more light on earmarks.

“The American people expect us to be good stewards of their tax dollars here in Washington, so we must work together to reduce the number of earmarks inserted into large spending bills, and reform the earmark process to make it more transparent and more accountable,” he said.

He repeated his desire to wean the U.S. off foreign oil and boost investment in alternative energy sources. However, he didn’t outline any new energy proposals.

“We need to put aside our partisan differences and work constructively to address the vital issues confronting our nation,” Bush said. “As the new Congress takes office, I don’t expect Democratic leaders to compromise on their principles, and they don’t expect me to compromise on mine. But the American people do expect us to compromise on legislation that will benefit the country.”

By Henry J. Pulizzi, Dow Jones Newswires

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