President Bush says it is a challenging time for the U.S. economy, so he wants as much as $150 billion in tax relief to help. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, opposition Democrats say an economic stimulus package should include greater spending on social programs.

President Bush says he knows many Americans are concerned about the future of the economy, with the risk that continued instability in the housing market could put more jobs in jeopardy.

So he wants a deal with Congress to stimulate the economy as soon as possible. In his weekly radio address, the president says broad-based tax relief should be big enough to make a difference. He is proposing an amount equal to about one percent of the value of all goods and services produced in the United States annually. That is between $140 billion and $150 billion.

"This growth package must be temporary and take effect right away so we can get help to our economy when it is needed most," he said.  "And this growth package must not include any tax increases. Specifically, this growth package should bolster both business investment and consumer spending, which are critical to economic growth."

President Bush wants tax incentives for businesses to make investments this year as well as direct and rapid income tax relief for individuals. He says letting consumers keep more of their own money should increase spending at a time when people might otherwise spend less.

The president spoke Thursday with leaders from both political parties in both houses of Congress.  He says he believes a deal can be worked out soon.

In the Democratic radio address, Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank says Republicans and Democrats should act together and act quickly.

"In terms of immediate stimulus, Democrats stand ready to work with the president and congressional Republicans to put together a bipartisan package including tax rebates for most Americans and one-time increases in programs directed at those who are bearing the heaviest burdens in this economy," he said.

Frank is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.  He says economists agree that middle and working class people are most likely to spend additional money in ways that stimulate the economy and create jobs.

Democrats want to extend unemployment benefits and boost food aid for the poor as part of the stimulus package. That social spending may face opposition from the president who says the deal should not include spending projects with little immediate impact on the economy.

President Bush remains determined to make his record tax cuts permanent, but he removed what would have been a big obstacle to any deal by agreeing not to include that demand in this request for a temporary economic stimulus.