WASHINGTON – Just in time for the election, President Bush (search) is going to one of the most contested states to sign his fourth tax cut in four years.
The White House is holding the signing ceremony Monday at a YMCA in Des Moines, Iowa — a Democratic area of a state that Bush lost by a razor-thin margin in 2000. His Democratic opponent, Sen. John Kerry (search), follows Bush into Iowa this week, appearing Tuesday in Tipton to discuss issues that concern middle-class Americans.
An estimated 94 million Americans will be affected by the tax relief, which keeps three middle-class tax breaks from expiring Jan. 1 and revives other tax incentives for businesses.
The tax package that Congress passed last month will:
—Keep the per-child tax credit at $1,000 for five years.
—Extend the broader 10 percent tax bracket for six years, helping cut taxes for virtually all taxpayers.
—Retain for four years a provision giving married couples relief from the so-called marriage penalty.
The tax relief will cost $131.4 billion in government revenue over the next decade. In addition, Republicans added provisions to extend 23 tax breaks for businesses that were set to expire. The biggest item in this group, which costs $12.97 billion, is a tax credit to businesses for research and development.
Kerry backed the middle-class tax breaks, saying they helped families being squeezed by a weak economy, falling incomes and rising health costs. But he has proposed rolling back the tax cuts for families making more than $200,000 and using the savings to make health care and education more affordable.
The Massachusetts senator also has proposed new tax cuts to help middle-class families — relief he says won't increase "the deficit by one dime."
"Now that the middle-class tax cuts that John Kerry supported so vigorously in the Iowa caucuses are being extended, the lines are clear: Bush wants more tax breaks for the wealthy, Kerry wants to cut taxes and health costs for middle-class families," said Kerry spokesman Phil Singer. "Kerry is proposing twice as much in new middle-class and job-creating tax cuts as Bush."
Iowa, one of six states decided by fewer than 10,000 votes in the 2000 election, has been a frequent destinations of both campaigns.
Monday is Bush's 17th presidential trip to Iowa. Kerry has traveled there seven times. He also got a lot of exposure in the state during the nominating caucuses in January when he and running mate John Edwards, then a rival, rode late-breaking momentum to a one-two finish that put them on track to challenge Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Polls show Bush with a slim lead over Kerry in Iowa, which offers seven electoral votes to the winner on Nov. 2.
The population in the eastern half of the state, where most Iowans live, is split between Republicans and Democrats. The more rural western half is heavily conservative and Republican.
Bush, who holds an "Ask President Bush" event in nearby Clive, Iowa, later Monday, hopes to win Iowa by appealing to conservative Democrats, particularly Roman Catholic voters who tend to side with the GOP on abortion, gay marriage and other social issues.
Kerry, assisted by Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin and Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack, is hoping the state's economy and the Iraq war will keep Iowa in their party's win column.