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Bush Visits with Unions for Labor Day

Tuesday, 04 September 2001 12:00 AM

"We've got some problems on the horizon," Bush told members of the Northern Council of Wisconsin Carpenters who hosted the president and first lady Laura Bush at a Labor Day celebration in Kaukauna, Wis.

"On this Labor Day, I've got to tell you, I'm concerned about working families. I'm concerned our economy is not as strong as it should be," Bush said, pointing to recent statistics that showed the overall economic growth measured at "a paltry 1 percent over 12 months."

"Growth in our economy has been anemic, at best," Bush added, predicting an economic rebound once the recently passed 10-year, $1.3 trillion tax cut began working its way back into the economy.

"The rebate checks are now hitting," Bush said. "People have got more money to spend or invest, the very things needed to make sure that we sustain economic vitality and growth."

But Democrats in Congress argue that the tax cut, combined with a slowing economy, has eaten up the budget surplus and jeopardized programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

"The surplus has evaporated," said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who serves on the Senate appropriations committee. He spoke during an appearance on CNN's "Late Edition" Sunday talk show.

"This whole budget scheme doesn't add up," Dorgan said, referring to the administration's fiscal policy. "How does the president now fund the increase in spending he wants? He's the one that's talking about a very substantial increase in defense, he wants an increase in education. Where is that going to come from? It doesn't exist in the current budget full of fuzzy math."

White House officials say Congressional budget estimates, which put the administration about $9 billion in the red unless Social Security funds are used, are less accurate than their own calculations. According to White House estimates, the administration has about $1 billion in surplus revenues without dipping into Social Security revenues, which both parties have vowed to leave untouched.

"We've got ample money in Washington, D.C., to spend if we set our priorities," Bush said. "If Washington would only prioritize, we've got plenty of money to spend in Washington, D.C."

The appearances marked Bush's second overture to union members in recent weeks. During his "working vacation" in August, Bush also toured a Harley Davidson factory and stressed his focus on the economy in an apparent effort to appeal to labor interests, which typically align themselves with the Democrats.

But in the Teamsters, Bush has found allies for his controversial proposal to drill for oil in federally protected wild lands in Alaska known as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Teamsters chief James P. Hoffa said the plan "makes sense to us" during an appearance Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Hoffa estimated that the project, fiercely opposed by environmentalists, would generate roughly 25,000 jobs in Alaska.

"Right now we've had over a million people lose their jobs in the past year in the United States," Hoffa said. "Let's start talking about creating jobs."

But passage of the budget, not legislative action on the Bush's energy plan, is likely to dominate both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue on Tuesday as Congress reconvenes after its August recess.

Other areas of Bush's fall agenda risk being relegated to the backburners as well if Bush and lawmakers deadlock over spending issues.

Bush has repeated calls for lawmakers to pass the education reform legislation in the joint House-Senate committee on Capitol Hill. Bush hopes to shore up funds for education and the Pentagon in the opening rounds of budget negotiations before the passage of other elements of the budget draws increasingly fewer government funds.

"I hope when the members come back tomorrow, they don't play politics with an education bill, and they get it on my desk so I can sign it so the local folks can start planning for the school years coming up," Bush said. "Good tax policy is important for our country, good energy policy, good education policy."

Bush planned to return to the White House Monday evening after meeting with the Teamsters to be on hand for the opening of Capitol Hill's fall session. The president has no appearance planned for Tuesday, however.

On Wednesday, Bush is scheduled to welcome Mexican President Vicente Fox to the White House.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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We've got some problems on the horizon, Bush told members of the Northern Council of Wisconsin Carpenters who hosted the president and first lady Laura Bush at a Labor Day celebration in Kaukauna, Wis. On this Labor Day, I've got to tell you, I'm concerned about working...
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Tuesday, 04 September 2001 12:00 AM
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