Gore announces tax-cut plan; Bush returns to trail with disabilities proposal
CINCINNATI, Ohio (CNN) -- Upping the ante in the tax-cut debate with Republican rival George W. Bush, Vice President Al Gore on Thursday announced a revamped $500 million proposal designed to help middle-class Americans pay for tuition, buy health insurance and save for retirement.
Vice President Al Gore campaigned Thursday in Cincinnati, Ohio.
"The right kind of tax cuts are good for our economy. They help families go to college and build new skills, they help people save for retirement," Gore during a visit to a family-owned food service business in Cincinnati.
Although he never mentioned Bush by name during the forum with local families, Gore suggested that Bush's five-year, $483 billion across-the-board tax relief plan would jeopardize plans to strengthen Social Security and Medicare and pay down the national debt.
"As we close out our material debts, the right kind of tax cuts help us close our moral debts as well," the vice president said.
Gore outlined his smaller tax relief plans during the Democratic primary season, estimating their cost at no more than $250 billion over 10 years. As projected government surpluses grew, so did Gore's plan, campaign officials said.
Gore's revamped tax cut package -- a mixture of old and new campaign proposals -- includes plans to:
• Expand tax credits for day care to provide families with as much as $2,400 to offset child care costs.
• Allow parents who stay at home with infants to use the child care tax credit by claiming assumed child care expenses of $500.
• Provide tax credits for after-school care, up to 50 percent of costs.
• Give a $3,000 tax credit for long-term care.
• Expand the earned income tax credit for poor Americans.
• Give married couples the same standard deduction as if they had remained single.
• Provide families with tax deductions or a 28 percent credit on up to $10,000 of tuition and fees for any post-secondary education, including college, vocational training and graduate school.
• Create 401(j) investment account allowing families to contribute as much as $2,500 a year into education accounts which can be withdrawn tax-free.
Polls show Bush holds a slight lead over Gore in Ohio, a key battleground state in the November election. Bush heads to the Buckeye State on Friday to lead a discussion on education with at-risk youth.
Gore campaign chief resigns for health reasons
The vice president's two-week excursion is aimed at drawing a link for voters between the nation's unprecedented economic prosperity and the Clinton Administration's domestic policies.
In the midst of the "prosperity tour," Gore confirmed Thursday that Tony Coelho is leaving his post as campaign chairman for health reasons. Coelho, who was hired more than a year ago to revamp Gore's sluggish campaign, was treated at a Virginia hospital this week for an inflamed colon.
Between campaign stops in upstate New York and Cincinnati, Gore praised Coelho as a friend and advisor who "led his campaign to a tremendous victory in the primaries."
"I look forward to calling upon Tony's counsel and help once again just as soon as his doctors give me the word," Gore said.
Coelho will replaced by Commerce Secretary William Daley, who plans to join the Gore campaign around July 15 after resigning his Cabinet post.
A former lawyer and banker, Daley is considered one of the most politically savvy members of the administration. He is the son of the late Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley and the brother of current Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Bush campaigns in Maine
After five days of meetings with top advisers at his family's vacation home in Maine, Bush returned to campaigning Thursday with his own new proposals aimed at assisting people with disabilities.
The presumptive GOP nominee also settled on a speaking role at the upcoming Republican National Convention for his former rival, Arizona Sen. John McCain, and appeared close to lining up an appearance for retired Gen. Colin Powell.
On Thursday, Bush announced a five-year, $880 billion "New Freedom Initiative" during a visit to Alpha One, a disability treatment center in Portland, Maine.
"Our society, and our government must make every effort to enable people with disabilities to lead independent and productive lives," Bush told the audience at Alpha One.
The Texas governor proposed a three-fold increase in federal funding to develop new technologies that help people with disabilities live independent lives. Bush also said he would increase low-interest loan programs to help people buy assistive technologies.
Bush said he would help companies comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act by creating a $20 million matching fund to help buy telecommuting equipment such as computers and modems for disabled employees. He also pledged a $5 million fund to help small businesses that face financial burdens comply with the disabilities law.
The landmark law gave civil rights protections to the disabled. It mandated equal access to the workplace and most common public and recreational areas. It was signed in 1990 by President George Bush, the Texas governor's father.
"I support the ADA, and I'm really proud that it was my father's signature that made the law become real," Bush said.
Bush also said he would change the Section 8 rental housing program so the disabled can use a year's worth of rental vouchers for a home down payment and future mortgage payments.
In addition to non-profit work for Maine residents with disabilities, the organization runs a storefront that sells wheelchairs, as well as an array of sports gear for the handicapped. Bush was introduced at the event by Alpha One founder Steven Tremblay, who became disabilities advocate after a 1971 car accident left him a quadriplegic.
GOP convention roles for McCain, Powell
Meanwhile, Bush campaign aides confirmed Thursday that McCain has agreed to speak at the upcoming Republican National Convention, which begins July 31 in a Philadelphia.
The Arizona senator has agreed to speak on the second night of the four-day convention -- a night that will be dedicated to honoring the "strength of America," Bush campaign spokeswoman Karen Hughes told reporters. Other speakers that night could include Condoleeza Rice, Bush's international policy advisor.
The Bush campaign is also laying plans for a possible opening-night appearance by Powell, the popular former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. However, Hughes stressed Thursday that such plans were not final, and that Powell has not yet been asked to speak.
McCain had been hoping for a prominent role at the convention in Philadelphia, possibly the keynote address. Bush aides said he won't be delivering the keynote address, and it was unclear whether the convention would have one.
The offer to McCain was made on Wednesday. Each of the four nights at the July 31-August 4 convention will have a theme, and there will be prominent recognition of former GOP presidents, including Bush's father.