* Obama: stimulus has provided $160 billion in tax relief
* Republicans charge Democrats with not creating jobs
By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON, April 10 (Reuters) - With a tax deadline approaching and congressional elections only months away, President Barack Obama used his weekly address on Saturday to remind Americans he had kept a promise to cut their taxes.
Obama, a Democrat, said in a radio and Internet address that the $787 billion stimulus package passed by the U.S. Congress last year had provided more than $160 billion in tax relief to families and businesses already.
“I kept a promise I made when I campaigned for this office and cut taxes for 95 percent of working Americans,” he said.
“One thing we have not done is raise income taxes on families making less than $250,000. That’s another promise we’ve kept,” he said.
Republicans charge that Obama’s policies, particularly the healthcare reform bill the president recently signed into law, will increase government spending and hit Americans’ wallets. Obama says healthcare reform includes one of the largest middle-class tax cuts in U.S. history.
The issue is likely to be a key theme in November elections that could shift the balance of power in Congress. Democrats control both the House of Representatives and the Senate in addition to the White House.
Americans must file their 2009 tax returns by April 15, and Obama said taxpayers could amend their returns later if they did not take advantage of a series of tax credits that were made available in the stimulus package.
“So far, Americans who have filed their taxes have discovered that the average refund is up nearly 10 percent this year — to an all-time high of about $3,000,” he said.
Republican Senator Jon Kyl, in his party’s weekly address, accused Democrats of not focusing on the public’s most pressing priority — creating jobs.
“The American people have been telling Washington that promoting job growth must be the first priority. But, for more than a year, Congress and the president have focused instead on a controversial health spending bill which a majority of Americans said they didn’t want,” Kyl said.
“Recognizing that their $1.2 trillion stimulus has failed and in a frantic, election-year push, Democrats in Congress are labeling every bill they bring up as a ‘jobs’ bill. Most are just more government spending, leading to higher deficits and more debt — and very few jobs.”
In his address, Obama also repeated a call for Congress to close tax loopholes for big corporations.
“Just as each of us meets our responsibilities as citizens, we expect our businesses and our government to meet theirs in return,” Obama said.
“That’s why I’ve asked Congress to close some of the biggest tax loopholes exploited by some of our most profitable corporations to avoid paying their fair share — or, in some cases, paying taxes at all,” he said.
Editing by Philip Barbara