Good morning. As a new Congress convenes, we must take steps to speed up the economic recovery and to strengthen public confidence in the integrity of American corporations. This week in Chicago, I announced my growth and jobs plan, specific proposals to help workers, employers and investors across America.
For unemployed Americans whose benefits expired on December 28th, I asked Congress to act to extend those benefits. Congress did so quickly, and I signed the extension of unemployment benefits into law this week.
For Americans who face the greatest difficulty finding work, I propose special re-employment accounts. These accounts will provide up to $3,000 to help pay for training, moving expenses, or other costs of finding a job.
For all income taxpayers, I propose speeding up the tax cuts already approved by Congress, because Americans need that relief today. Instead of gradually reducing the marriage penalty between now and 2009, we should do it now. Instead of waiting until 2008 to move more taxpayers from the 15 percent bracket to the 10 percent bracket, we should make that change now. Instead of slowly raising the child credit to $1,000 by 2010, we should raise it now. When these changes are made, 92 million Americans will keep an average of $1,083 more of their own money.
And for America's 84 million investors, and those who will become investors, I propose eliminating the double taxation on stock dividends. Double taxation is unfair and bad for our economy. It falls especially hard on seniors, many of whom rely on dividends for a steady source of income in their retirement.
Abolishing double taxation of dividends will leave nearly 35 million Americans with more of their own money to spend and invest, which will promote savings and return as much as $20 billion this year to the private economy.
Overall, my tax cut proposals will add nearly $59 billion to the economy in 2003 alone.
Our government is also acting to restore investor confidence in the integrity and honesty of corporate America. In response to the abuses of some corporations, we passed serious reforms, and we will vigorously enforce them. Our Corporate Fraud Task Force has obtained convictions or guilty pleas in over 50 cases. More than 160 defendants have been charged with criminal or civil wrongdoing. And 130 new corporate fraud investigations have been launched.
In my budget for the coming year, I will also propose major increases in funding for the prosecutors of corporate crime. My 2004 budget funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission will be 73 percent higher than 2002 levels. This will allow the agency to hire hundreds of new accountants, lawyers and examiners.
I'm also requesting an extra $25 million for the Department of Justice to expand corporate fraud investigations. This will allow the department to create 118 new positions in the FBI, including 56 agents. In addition, 94 new people will be hired to serve in the U.S. attorneys' offices and legal divisions across the nation.
The SEC and Justice Department are the referees of corporate conduct. Under my budget, they will have every resource they need to enforce the laws that punish fraud and protect investors.
I ask the Congress to support these enforcement measures, and to pass my growth and jobs plan as soon as possible. Our country has made great progress in restoring investor confidence, and putting the recession behind us. We cannot be satisfied, however, until every corporate wrongdoer is held to account, and every part of our economy is strong, and every person who wants to work can find a job.
Thanks for listening.