Bush Touts Technology, Tax Breaks in Midwest Speech

President Bush, focused on America's ability to keep pace in a fast-changing world economy, urged Congress on Thursday to permanently renew a now-expired tax break for U.S. companies' research and development projects.

Keeping America competitive in the global marketplace received top billing in the president's State of the Union address on Tuesday, and was the first issue he chose to highlight in his post-speech travels. After his appearance here at the headquarters of mega-manufacturer 3M Co., Bush was repeating the message Friday during a panel discussion in Albuquerque, N.M., and at a Dallas school focused on advanced science and math education.

Extolling blockbuster products such as iPods and DVD players for cars, Bush said that half of the country's economic growth in the last 50 years is "directly due to technological progress fueled by research and development."

"If that's the case, if that's the truth, we got to make sure we continue to encourage research and development," he said.

The vast majority of Bush's multibillion proposal that the White House has dubbed the "American Competitiveness Initiative" goes to fund the R&D tax credit. Of the $5.9 billion Bush is requesting for fiscal 2007 for the entire initiative, $4.6 billion would pay for the tax portion.

All of Bush's past budget submissions have included a proposal to make this tax credit permanent. It expired on Dec. 31, and the House and Senate are working on bills to extend it for one year, with some modifications — but Bush said that wasn't nearly enough.

"You cannot run a business and plan to make longterm investments if the incentive program is only temporary," he said, to loud applause from hundreds of employees of the 3M industrial conglomerate best known for its Scotch brand and Post-It supplies. "Congress needs to understand that nations like China and India and Japan and Korea and Canada all offer tax incentives that are permanent. We live in a competitive world. We want to be the leader in this world."

Several dozen protesters gathered nearby in this Twin Cities suburb, rallying against everything from entitlement spending cuts and a secret domestic surveillance program to the Iraq war.

Afterward, the president was meeting privately with the family of a soldier recently killed in Iraq. He was spending the night in Albuquerque.

Bush also pushed the component of his competitiveness initiative that would provide for more rigorous math and science instruction in high schools. He plans to request $380 million in fiscal 2007 for the proposal to give 70,000 existing teachers over five years the extra training they need to be able to teach advanced-placement math and science classes in high schools and to draw up to 30,000 math and science professionals into teaching high school classes as a sideline.

Currently, there are an estimated 33,664 advanced-placement teachers in science and math, according to the College Board, a nonprofit association based in Washington

Bush also aims to bolster basic research in engineering and physical sciences such as physics and chemistry, by doubling the federal investment over 10 years for government laboratories.

The research money — $910 million in fiscal 2007 — would fund research programs at the National Science Foundation, pay for 500 new researchers at the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology and 2,600 new researchers at facilities operated or assisted by the Energy Department.