U.S./world – In limbo – Bush speaks out

With Democrats set to take control of the Senate and some of his plans to boost charity running into roadblocks, President Bush tried to calm foes of his plan to let religious groups help deliver $250 million in federal funding for social programs.

Bush, whose faith-based plan has been shelved indefinitely by its Senate backers, promised at a Catholic parish center in Cleveland to help “armies of compassion,” but vowed that government never would fund churches, Reuters reported May 24.

“Poverty runs deep in this country, and we need to take the war on poverty a step further, by recognizing the power and promise of faith-based and community-based groups, that exist not because of government, but because they’ve heard the universal call to love somebody in need,” he said.

“We’ll never fund faith, we’ll never fund churches, but we should fund armies of compassion,” he said. “We should not discriminate against faith-based programs which exist to help people in need.”

At the same time, estate-tax specialists don’t expect to see the total repeal of the estate tax proposed by Bush, The Wall Street Journal reported May 25.

The expected legislation would phase in relief slowly over the next 10 years, with full repeal not coming until 2011.

“The legislation would have to survive five Congresses and possibly as many as three president,” Sanford J. Schlesinger, a partner at Kaye Scholer in New York told the Journal.

A key provision of tax legislation being hammered out by lawmakers likely will give a big boost to the basic estate-tax exclusion and also cut the top tax rate, but not until next year, the Journal said.

Many estate planners expect the basic exclusion, now $675,000, to increase to $1 million next year, four years sooner than under current law – so the first $1 million of an estate left to anyone other than a spouse would be exempt from taxation, the Journal said. There’s generally no limit on the amount that spouses can inherit free of estate tax.

For full story on Bush speech, go to Northern Light.

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