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6/24/2004
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Kerry Pitches $30 Billion Tech Investment Plan

The prospective Democratic presidential nominee said he would create tax incentives to invest in startups, research and development, and broadband networks for rural areas and cities.

Sen. John Kerry on Thursday unveiled plans for a $30 billion package of technology investments during a policy speech in San Jose, Calif.--and picked up the endorsement of former Chrysler Corp. chairman Lee Iacocca, who campaigned for President George W. Bush in 2000.

Speaking at San Jose State University, Kerry, the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for president, said if elected he would create tax incentives to invest in startups, research and development, and broadband networks for rural areas and cities. Kerry also said he would spend $30 billion to create high-tech jobs--and would pick up the tab by selling unused TV transmission spectrum after the country moves from analog to digital television.

Kerry attacked Bush for putting "ideology" before science.

"We're not going to get very far with a leadership that slashes science and technology budgets," Kerry said. "At the dawn of the 21st century, the possibilities are limitless. But they won't just happen. We have to invest more in our people and their ideas."

Iacocca, credited with helping to resuscitate Chrysler in the late 1970s and '80s. also campaigned for former president Ronald Reagan in the '80s. But he said he's throwing his support to Kerry, who can best create American jobs. "We can't compete unless our technology is world-class and cutting-edge," said Iacocca, who added that he will offer advice to Kerry during the campaign.

Kerry's plan for creating jobs through investment in technology combines tax incentives with increased budgets for federal agencies that fund R&D. Kerry said that as president, he would eliminate taxes on capital gains from investments in small businesses held for at least five years, currently taxed at a 14% rate. He would also extend a 20% tax credit on annual increases in R&D spending by companies and eliminate tax advantages for companies that move jobs overseas. "Startups drive technology job creation," he said. "And they usually have big ideas but small capital." Kerry's plan would provide a 10% tax credit for investments in broadband Internet access technology in rural areas and inner cities, and a 20% tax credit for investment in networks anywhere in the country if those networks are 20% faster than today's. Kerry also proposed equipping all first responders to emergencies--such as police and firefighters--with broadband connections by the end of 2006. High-speed Internet service to homes and small businesses grew by 42% last year to 28.2 million lines, but Kerry said the United States ranks 10th in the world in adopting broadband. "If Bangalore in India can be completely wired, then so should all of America," he said. The tax credits, which would cost $2 billion over five years, could expand the economy by $500 billion and create 1.2 million high-wage jobs, he said.

Kerry also said he would increase funding for the National Science Foundation, NASA, National Institutes of Health, Energy Department, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and devote more of defense R&D budgets to long-term research. Those funding increases could spur advances in manufacturing, nanotechnology, life sciences, clean energy, and IT research to make systems more dependable, reliable, and resistant to cyber-attacks. "How can we not afford to fund curiosity?" Kerry said. "I will be a president who actually believes in science." Kerry also reaffirmed his promise to support research into stem cells, which could help find cures for Alzheimer's and other diseases.

Over the course of the campaign, Kerry said he would provide details on additional investments in math and science education in schools and colleges.

According to Kerry, an anticipated $30 billion in revenue from selling unused analog television spectrum would pay for the technology plan. High-tech companies such as Intel have supported the sale of unused spectrum for data transmission and other applications, but television broadcasters have opposed the move.

Technology was also on the mind of President George W. Bush, who said during a speech in Washington that he would make broadband access available nationwide by 2007, boosting applications such as telemedicine and wiring rural areas. The Bush campaign also issued a statement that said the president's technology plan will allocate spending for development of hydrogen fuel cells and nanotechnology.

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