Bush Woos Women Business Owners Critics question whether budget works in women's favor

The Bush Administration held nothing back in its effort to winsupport from 1,300 businesswomen who descended on the nation'scapitol last week to attend a free conference organized by WomenImpacting Public Policy and sponsored by the Department of Labor.President Bush spoke for more than half an hour, outlining afive-point plan to boost entrepreneurship in America, includingsupport for association health plans to reduce the cost of healthinsurance for employers.

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"It's so important that our country maintain the flameof freedom--the entrepreneurial spirit," said Bush, addingthat "ours is an increasingly women's world," sincewomen are starting new businesses twice as fast as the rest of theU.S. population.

He and other cabinet officials, including the female secretariesof agriculture and labor, promised to help women obtain morefederal contracts, simplify the tax code and reduce the burden ofgovernment regulation. "Every agency will be required toanalyze the impact of a new regulation on small business,"said Bush, urging attendees to contact the Office of Management andBudget if they have problems or suggestions about constrictingfederal regulations.

Senators and congressional representatives lined up to speakduring the two-day program at the Ronald Reagan Convention Center,pledging to totally repeal the federal estate tax known as the"death tax," which is set to come back to life in 2011."The death tax is in a coma, but is still on lifesupport," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX). "Weneed to pull the plug on the death tax."

Rep. Don Manzullo (R-IL), a member of the House Small BusinessCommittee, said he's been holding hearings to end the practiceof contract bundling, which encourages the government to work withlarge companies vs. small. "We call it contractbungling," said Manzullo. "The U.S. Army is great atfighting wars, but terrible at ordering equipment."

Manzullo said his committee recently stopped the GovernmentPrinting Office from ordering 104,000 baseball caps from a Chinesecompany, redirecting the order to an American firm. "We aregoing after the biggest enemy of small business--the federalgovernment," he said.

Still, the budget passed last week cuts by half the SBA's7(a) loan guarantee program, according to Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez,ranking Democrat on the House Small Business Committee. "ThePresident stood before a group of women entrepreneurs and told themhe supported small business," said Velazquez in a statement."Unfortunately, his budget priorities work contrary to theirbest interests."

The budget also eliminates four programs designed to helpentrepreneurs in low-income communities, including the One-StopCapital Shops and a mentoring program. Electronic polls conductedthroughout the conference, which was underwritten by America Onlineand American Express, provided some insights into theattendees.

Fifty-seven percent of the women attending said they wish theyhad more money, compared with 43 percent who wished they had moretime. Sixty-four percent said the number-one quality they sought intheir employees was a good attitude, and 53 percent still relied onpersonal savings to fuel the growth of their business. Sixty-onepercent of attendees said creating a "family-friendlyenvironment" at work was extremely important.

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