Throughout the televised debates, press conferences, town halls and campaign rallies, I thought there was too little attention paid to where the candidates stood on critical small-business issues. So, I asked the mainstream candidates to share exactly where they stand on five key issues concerning America's entrepreneurs.

These five questions, based on real questions posted on bulletin boards hosted by Netscape's, were submitted in writing a few weeks ago to the Gore and Bush campaign headquarters. The answers were relayed via e-mail and appear here.

What specific tax incentives do you support that would help small-business owners?

Gov. George W. Bush: "I believe that reducing the marginal tax rates is the best way to promote economic growth through the tax code. It is critical to reduce taxes on entrepreneurial success in order to help expand the economy through innovation.

"Specifically, my tax plan would cut all tax rates. The maximum marginal tax rates of 36 percent and 39.6 percent, which many small-business owners are subject to, would be cut to 33 percent. This large reduction will leave more resources with successful entrepreneurs.

"In addition, entrepreneurs and small-business owners are also singled out for punishment by the estate tax,better known as the "death tax." Right now, inheriting a family business generally means inheriting a tax, on assets over $650,000, of between 37 percent and 55 percent. Family businesses often can't afford this. They may have assets, but lack ready cash. The death tax violates virtually every principle of common sense and free enterprise and I intend to abolish it."

Vice President Al Gore Jr.: "I will not risk our economic prosperity with a huge tax scheme that would throw us back into an era of trillion-dollar deficits and hurt our ability to pay down the national debt. Within the context of a balanced budget and key investments in our people, I have been a long-time supporter of targeted tax cuts aimed at spurring investment in small business.

"I support raising the estate tax exemption for small businesses and family farms from $2.6 million to $5 million per couple. This change would mean that 70 percent of small businesses currently subject to the estate tax would no longer have to pay any estate tax on their small businesses.

"In 1997, I fought for the Taxpayer Relief Act, which cut the estate tax, increased the health insurance deduction for self-employed individuals and updated home-office deductions. As president, I will go further by making the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit permanent. I will also expand this new R & D; Tax Credit so that small businesses can take better advantage of it."

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