OCTOBER 19, 19:17 EDT
Gore To Offer Anti-Poverty Package
By RON FOURNIER
AP Political Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) Vice President Al Gore wants to make better fathers out of men with a series of campaign proposals, including a measure urging credit card companies to deny credit to those he calls ``dead-broke dads.''
Gore's ``responsible fatherhood'' package will be unveiled at a Washington church Wednesday, the day before Bill Bradley, his sole rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, delivers a major address on child poverty.
The vice president is making a habit of pre-empting Bradley's speeches. Days before the former New Jersey senator unveiled an ambitious and expensive plan to provide universal health care, Gore rushed together a more limited health care plan.
``This certainly suggests that the vice president agrees with our agenda,'' Bradley spokesman Eric Hauser said. ``But in the end the depth and significance of our proposals to solve big problems is far greater than his.''
Gore spokesman Chris Lehane fired back with a reference to Bradley's vote in the Senate in favor of President Reagan's 1981 spending cuts. ``Al Gore's interest and commitment to strengthening families dates back long before he became interested in running for president, back to 1981 when he stayed and fought against the Reagan budget cuts that devastated programs for working families and the poor.''
Meanwhile, a poll released Tuesday showed Gore and Bradley in a close race in Iowa, where precinct caucuses launch the presidential nominating season in January.
Gore was favored by 43 percent of the voters questioned, to Bradley's 40 percent, with 17 percent undecided. The survey of 617 people who said they regularly vote in state elections was commissioned by KCCI, a Des Moines, Iowa, television station. It claimed a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points.
Bradley's campaign has gained ground in polls across the country, including in Iowa. A survey last month had him within 12 points of the vice president in the state, where Gore generally had been given an edge because of his backing from the party establishment.
Gore planned to address the poverty problem with a series of proposals focused on fathers who can't afford to pay child support. They are aimed primarily at men on welfare and offer incentives for them to find work, said a supporter who had been briefed on the package.
The supporter, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the package includes measures to:
Provide credit card companies with government data on fathers who have not paid child support. The companies would be urged to deny credit to anyone on the lists.
Promote marriage by reducing the tax penalty paid by married couples. Gore wants to raise the standard deduction for married couples by $1,400 and allow married couples earning up to $29,000 to receive the Earned Income Tax Credit. The supporter said the E.I.T.C. threshold currently is lower, forcing couples to accept a tax increase or avoid marriage. Gore proposed a similar measure in July as part of his middle-class tax package.
The supporter said Gore will cite government data showing that more than one-third of American children live apart from their biological fathers, a growing trend that tends to perpetuate child poverty.
Joe Jones, president of Baltimore's Center for Fathers, Families and Workforce Development, described the services as ``tough love, in-your-face job training and readiness.''
``We're looking at ways to make the distinction between deadbeat and dead broke. If you're a low-income parent with little education and no job, we've got to take that into account as we put together these child support orders,'' said Jones, who is scheduled to participate in the event.
Jones, one of the many people consulted by Gore to prepare for the announcement, said of the credit card proposal: ``If somebody doesn't pay, you need to do things to bring them to the table in terms of their accountability and responsibility. We need to make sure there are mechanisms in place to get the resources to the children.''
Associated Press Writer Sandra Sobieraj contributed to this story.
Copyright 1999 Associated Press. All rights reserved.