Official: Obama to back business tax breaks

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by Julie Pace
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP)—President Barack Obama will call on Congress to pass new tax breaks that would allow businesses to write off 100 percent of their new capital investments through 2011, the latest in a series of proposals the White House is rolling out in hopes of showing action on the economy ahead of the November elections.

An administration official said the tax breaks would save businesses $200 billion over two years, allowing companies to have more cash on hand. The president will outline the proposal during a speech on the economy in Cleveland Sept. 8.

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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

Amid an uptick in unemployment to 9.6 percent, and polls showing that the November election could be dismal for Democrats, Obama has promised to propose new steps to stimulate the economy. In addition to the business investment tax breaks, he will also call for a $50 billion infrastructure investment and a permanent expansion of research and development tax credits for companies.

The proposals would requires congressional approval, which is highly uncertain given Washington’s partisan atmosphere.

“The White House is missing the big picture. None of its plans address the two big problems that are hurting our economy: excessive government spending, and the uncertainty that their policies….are creating for small businesses,” House Minority Leader John Boehner said.

Concerns over adding to the mounting federal deficit could also keep some Democratic lawmakers from approving new spending so close to the midterm elections. And even if legislators could pass some of the proposals in the short window between their return to Capitol Hill in mid-September and the elections, it’s unlikely the efforts would significantly stimulate the economy by November.

Stimulus measures enacted in 2008 and 2009 allowed businesses to depreciate 50 percent of their capital investments. A separate small business bill the White House is urging the Senate to pass would extend that tax break through the end of this year.

If Congress passes the administration’s proposal to expand the tax breaks to 100 percent, several million people and 1.5 million businesses would benefit, said the administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the formal announcement has not been made.

The official estimated the ultimate cost to taxpayers over 10 years would be $30 billion, with most of the money lost in tax revenue being recouped as the economy strengthens.

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