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White House Press Briefing with Ari Fleischer

White House Press Briefing with Ari Fleischer.

Click here to hear this morning’s White House press briefing…

And: US President George W Bush’s Pre-Union-Speech Radio Address

Click here to listen to the Radio Address

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This coming Tuesday I will deliver the State of the Union address to Congress and the American people. Our nation faces many great challenges all at once. We will meet all of them with courage and steady purpose.

In 2003, we must work to strengthen our economy; improve access to affordable, high quality health care for all our seniors; encourage compassion at home and abroad; and defend our nation against the threats of a new era. The war on terror is an ongoing priority for our nation. We will take every measure that is necessary to protect the American people from terrorist groups and outlaw regimes. The world depends on America's strength and purpose, and we will meet our responsibilities for peace.

Today, I want to speak to you about a few key domestic priorities. When I address Congress, I will urge them to pass my plan to strengthen our economy and help more Americans find jobs. The tax relief already planned for later in this decade should be made effective this year, including income tax reduction, marriage penalty relief, and an increase in the child tax credit. When Congress acts, I will direct the Treasury to return this money to taxpayers right away, which will provide immediate help to our economy.

We can also lay the foundation for future prosperity by encouraging investment and helping Americans to prepare for the new jobs a growing economy will bring. I will ask Congress to eliminate the unfair double taxation of dividends and raise the deduction limit for small businesses that invest in new machinery and equipment. And to help unemployed workers find a job as soon as possible, I propose new re-employment accounts. These accounts will assist with the cost of finding work, including training and child care and moving expenses, and provide a cash bonus to workers who find a job quickly.

Strengthening and improving Medicare is also a priority for my administration in the coming year. I will urge Congress to join me in keeping our commitment to America's seniors by working to modernize Medicare, and include a prescription drug benefit to help seniors who are squeezed by rising drug prices. As a prosperous nation, we have an obligation to help Americans who are struggling to build better lives for themselves. So I will propose new initiatives to bring the work of faith-based and community groups to the needs of our fellow citizens. All of these priorities will be reflected in the budget I submit to Congress in early February.

As we fund important priorities, however, we must also practice spending discipline in Washington. Spending restraint is important to economic growth and job creation. And it is critical to reducing the deficit caused by war and national emergency and recession. Under my budget, discretionary federal spending will rise by 4 percent, about the same as the increase in family incomes. Government should not grow faster than workers' paychecks. Government should follow the example of American families by setting priorities and staying with them.

In this session of Congress, we must work to make our nation safer, more prosperous and more compassionate. I look forward to working with the Republicans and Democrats in this important year for America and the world. Thank you for listening. END

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