As millions of Americans filed their tax returns Thursday, President Bush told hundreds of Midwesterners in a state he lost four years ago that his tax cuts are boosting economic growth.

"Tax relief we passed is helping to drive the economy forward ... just at the right time" following recession and the Sept. 11 attacks, said Bush, headlining a two-day symposium on rural America. He said the economy lost 1 million jobs in just three months after Sept. 11.

This year is "a little better" because of his administration's tax cuts, the president said, and credited them with helping to create 308,000 jobs last month and 750,000 jobs since August.

Bush said the American people expect the government to keep the taxpayers' burden as low as possible and "I take that responsibility seriously."

Before Bush spoke, the White House issued a "fact sheet" stating that 109 million American taxpayers will see their taxes decline this year by an average of $1,544.

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"I'm pleased to stand beside the tax-cutter-in-chief of the United States," said Sen. Charles Grassley (search), R-Iowa, who introduced the president.

Sponsored by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines, the symposium was led by Grassley, head of Bush's re-election campaign in the state, and Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat whom Bush helped try to oust in 2002.

Bush's Democratic opponent, John Kerry, told students at Howard University in Washington that the president is misleading Americans about tax policies, both Kerry's and his own, and accused Bush of a "big truth deficit."

"George Bush has made a big deal out of trying to convince America that he's lowered taxes for all Americans and that I'm going to come along and somehow raise taxes on Americans," Kerry said. "He's misleading Americans one more time."

"This president is busy trying to run away from his own record and create a phony one for someone else," the Massachusetts senator said. "Under my plan for America, my economic plan, I'm going to provide $225 billion more in tax cuts to the middle class than George Bush ever dreamed of."

Though Iowa carries only seven electoral votes, Bush and Kerry are battling hard for the state. Both men and their aligned interest groups are airing TV ads there. Bush lost the state in 2000 by fewer than 5,000 votes.

It was the second time since taking office that the president marked the April 15 tax-filing deadline in Iowa. Bush's previous Iowa visit was to Cedar Rapids on April 15, 2002, where he raised money for Harkin's opponent and argued — as was the plan for Thursday — for tax cuts enacted in 2002 to be made permanent.

Bush wants to keep in place key tax cuts set to expire at year's end: an increase in the child tax credit; tax reductions for some married couples who would pay more than they would as individual filers; and an expansion of the bottom 10 percent tax bracket.

The Kerry campaign released an Internet ad that uses a cartoon sketch to illustrate "the dark cloud George Bush has hung over the middle-class by pursing reckless, out-of-touch policies that have driven up everyday costs like education and health care." It depicts a suburban family receiving a spate of bad news in the mail: rising college tuition, health care and energy costs, all courtesy of Bush, pictured on the stamps.

Both Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney (search) benefited from the tax cuts they pushed through Congress.

Bush and his wife, Laura, paid $227,490 in federal income taxes last year— or about 28 percent of their adjusted gross income of $822,126. In 2002, about 31 percent of their adjusted gross income of $856,056 went to federal taxes.

The difference from one year to the next was even more pronounced for the vice president.

Cheney and his wife, Lynne, owed $253,067 in federal taxes last year — or about 20 percent of their adjusted gross income of $1.3 million. In 2002, they earned slightly less but paid more in taxes, 29 percent of their $1.2 million in income.