WASHINGTON – President Bush laid out a $7 billion proposal that would allow small businesses to avoid paying taxes until they start making money. He also said he wants to allow businesses to deduct the cost of supplies and more of their investment in equipment from their tax filings.
Speaking to a Labor Department conference for women entrepreneurs, the president called small businesses "the great equalizer" that is increasingly opening the business world to women.
"The truth of the matter is... women-owned businesses are growing at twice the rate — two times the rate — of all other United States firms. That's a remarkable accomplishment for the United States of America. And the interesting other fact that I want to point out to people listening is that women's firms now employ 7 million Americans."
The president said he wants a stronger, job-producing recovery, which he said would not be possible without tax cuts. He called for a permanent repeal of the estate tax, a move he said would allow small businesses to be "passed from one generation to the next without having to sell assets to pay a punitive tax."
Bush would remove regulatory "barriers" that he said slow growth, encourage greater competition by small businesses seeking government contracts, and make the government a greater advocate for small businesses when it considers regulatory changes.
"Small businesses embody the American values of hard work, risk-taking and independence," the president said.
He also signed onto two health care proposals — one that would let businesses pool employees to get lower rates for insurance, and another that would lower the deductible and eliminate the caps on medical savings accounts at a cost of $6 billion over 10 years.
Bush signed a bill earlier this month that is meant to jump-start the economy through an array of business tax cuts. It came at a time when a growing number of experts concluded that the economy already was pulling out of recession.
But with unemployment at 5.6 percent, he is eager to signal his continued attention to Americans still hurting, and to offer fresh proposals to accelerate a recovery.
Aides say Bush will be the last person to declare the recession over and the economy recovered, so he continues to push for the tax cuts he didn't get in the compromise version of the economic stimulus package he signed into law earlier this month.
But there is a political side to the effort as well. Bush remembers the price his father paid for suggesting the recession he wrestled with was over, when there were still parts of the country suffering from it, and still people looking for jobs.
Fox News' Wendell Goler and the Associated Press contributed to this report.