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Bush Cancels Visit To Charlotte

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Several inches of snowfall in Charlotte prompted the White House to cancel President George W. Bush's scheduled visit Thursday afternoon.

Concerns that the snow, which snarled Charlotte traffic Thursday, would cause problems for the president's motorcade reportedly were the primary reason for the cancellation.

Heavy, wet snow made driving difficult and closed many businesses. The Mecklenburg County Emergency Medical Service was responding to 10 calls about injury-related car crashes per hour, spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said.

Bush had been scheduled to arrive in the early afternoon for a job retraining seminar at Central Piedmont Community College and a $2,000-a-plate evening fund-raiser at the Charlotte Convention Center. But the White House called off the visit shortly after 1 p.m., saying the weather was too severe.

The college closed Thursday morning because of the weather and travel conditions.

Most other events in the city were also canceled.

Bush, who was in Lousville, Ky., flew back to Washington, D.C.

The White House did not say if Bush's trip would be rescheduled, only that he was not coming Thursday.

Bush was in Louisville, Ky., Thursday morning. He visited a thriving plastic pipe factory, where he insisted that Congress make tax cuts permanent to help keep the economy growing and create jobs -- a sensitive issue in this year's presidential campaign.

"I'm calling on Congress to make the tax cuts set to expire permanent," Bush said at ISCO Industries, a family-owned company, situated just east of downtown Louisville. "I would like Congress to make all tax cuts permanent. But the very minimum, the very minimum, they need to ... make those set to expire in 2005 permanent."

Bush said political opponents who say "Let's get rid of Bush's tax plan" really want to raise taxes on Americans.

"That's code word for: 'I'm going to raise your taxes,'" he said. "That's what that is."

The president's trip came a week after he distanced himself from White House predictions that the economy will add 2.6 million jobs this year.

The economy has lost 2.2 million payroll jobs since Bush took office, the worst jobs record of any president since Herbert Hoover.

While the unemployment rate has been falling and payrolls growing modestly in recent months, the 8.3 million Americans who were out of work last month continue to be a sensitive political issue for Bush as the re-election race gains steam.

The administration's economic forecast predicted that payroll jobs would average 132.7 million a month this year. But to achieve that average, the economy would have had to create more than 2.6 million jobs in coming months, which is unlikely.

"For the sake of our economy, for the sake of American families, for the sake of small business owners, and for the sake of job creation, the tax cuts need to be permanent," Bush said.

Tax cuts set to expire at the end of this year include most of the increase in the child tax credit to $1,000, an expansion of the bottom 10 percent tax bracket that lowered taxes for virtually every worker, and some changes lessening the marriage penalty.

Even before official word came out the president was not coming to Charlotte, local organizers had canceled a protest.

About a dozen groups had planned to gather at Marshall Park and then march several blocks to the Charlotte Convention Center, where Bush had been scheduled to deliver a speech at a Bush-Cheney 2004 reception.

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