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Tampa Electric Company

Talking points for Secretary Mel Martinez*

Tampa, Florida
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Thank you Congresswoman Brown-Waite for that kind introduction. And thanks to all of you who are here this morning.

It is always nice to be back home in Florida and I am especially delighted to be here in beautiful Tampa today - the home of the U.S. Central Command, which has played such a critical role in the effort to liberate Iraq.

I would like to thank the Tampa Electric Company, our host this morning.

Let me start by saying that the fine people of Florida's 5th congressional district are lucky to have the Congresswoman as your representative. Congresswoman: President Bush and I couldn't be happier to have you in Washington.

During your short time in Congress, you have worked to lower the tax burden on American families; fought to support the President's efforts to rebuild our nation's armed forces; strongly supported homeland security; and defended the interests of our nation's elderly.

So, thank you Congresswoman Brown-Waite for your work on behalf of all Floridians and for the future of the state. You have shown that you are willing to fight for what you believe in!

I would also like to thank Stuart Rogel (President, Tampa Bay Partnership) for being here today and for your promotion of the Tampa Bay region.

I appreciate the close working relationship that the Partnership has with my hometown of Orlando and my good friends at the Orlando Regional Chamber, many of whom are here today and I will be seeing May 8th in Washington, D.C.

I applaud your shared enterprise. The concept of our Orlando/Tampa Bay Region is powerful and we are well positioned to compete in the global marketplace.

Stuart, you and your colleagues have helped secure Tampa as one of the best places to do business in the country. Today, Tampa has the fourth largest economy in the Southeastern United States and has an economic output greater than many countries, including Egypt, Malaysia, Singapore and Colombia.

Together with the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and many other groups in the seven county region, you all have shown how public-private partnerships can spur economic growth, vitality and diversity.

As a member of President Bush's Cabinet, I would like to talk with you this morning about our efforts to get this country's economy firmly back on track -- primarily through the President's Jobs and Growth Package.

However, I cannot begin my remarks without saying a few words about the liberation of Iraq and the brave men and women - many of whom are from Florida - who are fighting to protect this great country.

Since the war began - four weeks ago tomorrow - our forces have conducted themselves with all of the skill and honor that President Bush and the American people expected of them. And they have made us proud.

Last Wednesday, we witnessed history in the making when U.S. Army and Marine forces drove through the streets of Baghdad amid jubilant crowds of brave Iraqi citizens celebrating the fall of the cruel, repressive regime.

What a sight it was when that statue came down in Baghdad!

Having lived under a tyrannical dictatorship myself, I have a special appreciation for the cause of freedom.

As the President stated in his radio address this past Saturday: "It should surprise no one that Iraqis, like all people, resent oppression and welcome their own freedom. It should surprise no one that in every nation and every culture, the human heart desires the same good things: dignity, liberty, and a chance to build a better life."

We are grateful as a nation for the sacrifice of the men and women in our armed forces and their families. And our hearts especially go out to those who have lost a loved one.

And we are grateful for the release over the weekend of our seven POWs, including Apache helicopter pilots David Williams and Ronald Young, both with family ties to central Florida.

As we shift our focus to our domestic agenda, we must work hard to strengthen our economy and make sure it is strong and vibrant at this time of uncertainty…we must have policies in place that promote economic growth and jobs.

The President is confident in the fundamental strengths of our economy, but we can and must grow fast enough so that everyone who wants to work can find a job.

America can afford the cost of the Iraq war, which at $74.7 billion makes up less than 1 percent of GDP. What we cannot afford is the cost of inaction against terrorists and their sponsors.

September 11th cost an estimated $83 billion to New York City alone. The top 315 U.S. metro areas sustained estimated losses of $191 billion and lost 1.6 million jobs as a result of the attacks, not to mention the tragic loss of 3,000 lives.

And just this weekend, we saw the closing of an icon of Florida tourism - Cypress Gardens. By the reports I saw, it seems that 9/11 was a key factor in their failure.

Fortunately, our economy is entering its second consecutive year of growth and interest rates are at their lowest point in 37 years. Plus, the stock market has begun to show signs of rebound.

And I think that most experts would agree that it would have taken longer for us to begin rebounding from this last economic downturn had the President not proposed and secured the passage of his first tax cut package.

Yet, the economy is still not growing fast enough, or strongly enough.

Too many people cannot find work, many family budgets are strained, and many companies are holding back on new investments and on hiring new people.

So I am here to tell you that our Administration will not rest until we move beyond recovery and into lasting prosperity. And as the President has said, "We will not be satisfied until every part of our economy is healthy and vigorous."

Last week, the Congress passed a budget that provided for $550 billion in tax relief. This falls short of the President's original goal.

The President, however, will work with Congress to get a final jobs and growth package that is at least that size and includes all the elements of tax relief he proposed to grow the economy and create the greatest number of new jobs for American workers.

This Administration believes that the key to growing the economy is to allow more Americans to keep more of their hard-earned money to spend, save and invest as they see fit. This will allow the economy to expand and people to find work.

And a message of lower taxes should be a powerful message on this day - "Tax Day."

That is why the President proposed his Jobs and Growth Plan earlier this year. This is a plan that will create and secure jobs, accelerate and sustain our recovery, increase workers' standards of living, and increase the economic performance of our nation right now and for many years to come.

The President's new initiative - with its focus on reducing the family tax burden, promoting business investment, and creating jobs - is one of our Administration's top priorities and will help us boost the economy at a time when just such a boost is needed.

This plan will provide tax relief for every American who pays federal income taxes, with some 92 million Americans receiving, on average, a tax cut of $1,083 this year. That's real money to help pay the bills and push the economy forward…money that would start showing up in every taxpayer's paycheck as soon as Congress passes the plan.

It will help working Americans by focusing tax relief directly at moderate-income families and those with children, by providing an increase in the child tax credit from $600 to $1,000 per child. Families would get that extra $400 per child in a check mailed to them weeks after the bill is signed.

It also completely eliminates the income tax burden for 3 million American families, while making the overall income tax code more - not less - progressive.

And the plan includes accelerated relief from the marriage penalty for working couples. Amazingly enough, the current tax code forces married couples to pay $1,400 more in taxes than couples who live together out of wedlock.

It makes no sense to penalize a couple for getting married!

The plan also calls for abolishing the unfair double-taxation of dividends. The President believes it's fair to tax a company's profits; but it's unfair to tax that dollar twice when it is paid out to shareholders.

Half of all American households today own stock. Ending the double tax on dividends will be especially good for seniors, who receive more than half of all dividend income.

It will be good for workers, who will see wages rise and more jobs created as companies have more capital to invest. It also will encourage more companies to pay dividends.

And small businesses - America's job engine - will also benefit under the President's plan, which triples the amount they can expense for equipment such as computers and machinery.

This is a win-win plan for America and for the state of Florida.

This plan will bring relief to millions of Florida taxpayers - especially Florida's senior population.

More than one million small businesses in Florida will save on their tax bill, which will translate into new jobs and new equipment.

We should also note that the Council of Economic Advisors recently stated that the President's plan will increase the number of jobs nationwide by 510,000 this year and 1.4 million by the end of 2004.

We also saw 250 of the nation's top economists endorse the plan.

And just last week (April 10), the Congressional Budget Office released a report that predicts that President Bush's tax cuts will indeed succeed in creating more jobs and boost economic growth, provided that Congress keeps a limit on new federal spending.

The CBO also points out that growth stemming from tax relief will aid the economy enough to make up for most of the lost tax revenue.

The fact of the matter is that this plan is good for all Americans.

The President also is committed to balancing the budget as fast as possible, consistent with national priorities. He believes that focusing on stronger economic growth and spending discipline will bring the budget back to balance.

When the economy grows, more people find work and tax revenues rise. This helps us get back to a balanced budget as quickly as possible.

And it is important to point out that while deficits matter and are rarely welcome, some are necessary to keep America strong.

The federal budget returned to deficits primarily because of the effects of the recession that started in 2000, the aftershocks of 9/11, corporate scandals, and the need to fight the war on terrorism and defend the Homeland.

But boosting economic growth and restraining spending are the best ways to trim the deficit.

In fact, the President's budget restrains wasteful spending, holding the overall increase in government spending to just 4 percent because the President believes the federal government should not grow any faster than the paychecks of American families.

It is critical for Congress to hold the line on spending too.

Once again, it is my pleasure to be in Tampa today. I am honored to represent Florida on President Bush's team. I would like to thank Representative Brown-Waite for inviting me to her district.

I hope you will support the President's Jobs and Growth Plan. It will go a long way toward ensuring this country's prosperity for years to come.

*This is not a transcript of the Secretary's speech.

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