U.S. News

Bush Signs Massive Tax and Trade Bill


President Bush revived some 20 tax breaks, extended trade benefits for developing countries and protected doctors from a big cut in Medicare payments by signing sweeping tax and trade legislation.

The bill is a patchwork of must-do items that were left for the lame duck Congress. It was bundled together and passed by the House and Senate just before adjourning earlier this month.

"This is a good piece of pro-growth legislation," said Bush, just before putting his signature to the legislation at a White House ceremony.

Republican budget hawks bridled at the measure's approximately $40 billion price tag, and textile state senators objected to trade provisions benefiting Haiti.

The bill would:

-Extend through the end of next year a deduction for research and development initiatives.

-Renew a deduction of up to $4,000 for higher education costs.

-Give tax breaks for teachers who pay for supplies out of their own pockets.

-Let taxpayers deduct state and local sales taxes instead of state and local income taxes, a provision that primarily benefits those in states with no income taxes.

-Open up 8.3 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling, and offer a dozen credits promoting alternative and efficient uses of energy.

-Prevent a 5 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors from taking effect on Jan. 1.

-Renew, with increased federal contributions, a program to help clean up abandoned coal mines and provide health care for miners who worked for companies that have gone out of business.

-Permanently normalize trade with Vietnam and extend trade benefits for four Andean nations, sub-Saharan African countries and Haiti.

Bush also signed a bill to upgrade and modernize the nation's tsunami warning system, nearly two years after an Indian Ocean tsunami killed some 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

Approved by Congress earlier this month, the legislation is intended to bolster the tsunami detection and warning system in the Pacific Ocean, as well as expand it to any area in the Atlantic and Caribbean considered at risk by federal officials.