State Journal-Register

Jan 24, 2001

Section: NEWS

Page: 4

LaHood generally likes school plan, warns tax cut could mean trouble


WASHINGTON - Rep. Ray LaHood gave conditional support to President Bush's school plan Tuesday and warned the new president that a massive tax-cut package would likely run into problems on Capitol Hill.

The Peoria Republican, who represents part of Springfield and areas to the north, was among some two dozen House members from both parties who engaged in a wide-ranging discussion with Bush at the White House late Tuesday afternoon.

"It was fantastic. It was like talking to my next-door neighbor," LaHood said of the give-and-take.

It's one in a series of meetings that Bush has scheduled with members of Congress this week.

"I think he realizes that he's got to have a good rapport with Congress if he's going to get some of this stuff done," LaHood said.

In Bush's education plan, public schools would have three years to get up to standards before they risk losing federal funds to a voucher program.

"I like many of the things that he's talking about," said LaHood, who voted for an experimental voucher program for the District of Columbia.

But LaHood stressed that public schools are the schools of choice for the vast majority.

"I don't want to shortchange their opportunity to be successful," LaHood said. "But if in the end they aren't successful, then parents should have the opportunity to look elsewhere."

LaHood also said he advised Bush that a series of smaller tax cuts would be more successful than one large tax-cut package, something House Republican leaders learned over the last two years.

But Bush appeared undeterred, LaHood said.

"I told him, 'You have your work cut out for you because we've been through this before, '" LaHood said.