WASHINGTON -- President Bush has vetoed a tax bill that would have set up new enterprise zones to create jobs in big cities, killing the only urban aid measure to emerge from Congress in the wake of last spring's Los Angeles riot.
Mr. Bush signed the veto message yesterday on Air Force One as he flew back to Washington from Houston, where he had ended his unsuccessful re-election campaign. The president said he opposed the bill because it would raise taxes and "destroy jobs."
"The original focus of the bill -- to help revitalize America's inner cities -- has been lost in a blizzard of special interest pleadings," Mr. Bush said in his veto message. "The urban aid provisions . . . have been submerged by billions of dollars in giveaways."
The $28 billion measure also would have expanded benefits for Individual Retirement Accounts and provided new tax incentives for home buyers -- provisions that Mr. Bush either favored or proposed initially himself.
Congress cannot override Mr. Bush's veto because both houses have adjourned. Under the Constitution, if Mr. Bush had not vetoed the bill yesterday, it would have died tonight anyway.
Democrats vowed that they would try to revive some kind of urban aid package early in the 103rd Congress, which begins Jan. 5. Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell, D-Maine, said yesterday that some kind of urban aid legislation is likely early next year.
The veto came despite a ploy by Democrats, who had hoped that delaying congressional processing of the measure -- as Congress eventually did last month -- might prompt Mr. Bush to change his mind and sign the legislation after the Nov. 3 election.
The rationale was that if Mr. Bush was free of re-election concerns, he might sign the bill, despite his reservations about it.
The president has been especially sensitive to the tax increase issue since 1990, when he got in trouble politically for reneging on his 1988 campaign pledge to countenance "no new taxes" during his term in office. He effectively renewed that vow earlier this year.
Among components of the bill that Mr. Bush had proposed were tax breaks to help revive the real estate industry and revisions in tax law that would allow deductions for IRA contributions by individuals with incomes up to $75,000 and couples up to $100,000. Currently, the limits are $35,000 for individuals and $50,000 for couples.
The bill also would have repealed luxury taxes on boats, planes, furs and jewelry.
At the same time, however, the legislation included a spate of minor tax changes that Mr. Bush feared might be interpreted by critics as tax "increases."