George Bush says regulatory relief would be his highest legislative priority for banking if elected to a second term.

In a written statement prepared exclusively for American Banker, President Bush highlights his plans for the banking industry and lays and blame for restrictive banking laws on Democrats in Congress. He warns hat more such laws would be forthcoming should Bill Clinton win the election.

"With a Democratic Congress and a Democratic administration working hand in glove, the trend toward more burdensome regulations on the banking industry would go unchallenged-and even would be encouraged," the President said in the statement.

"I know that many of you feel besieged by the excessive regulatory mentality prevailing in some parts of Washington, and the hostile, reactionary political environment on Capitol Hill engendered by the savings and loan collapse. I, too, am concerned and believe in November that you have a clear choice."

Against Market Intervention

Mr. Bush said Mr. Clinton favors government intervention in credit market,s noting that the Arkansas governor's proposal for a more progressive version of the Community Reinvestment Act shows that Democrats view and banking industry as a tool to achieve social ends.

"How many progressive changes in the banking laws have reduced your regulatory burden in the past?" Mr. Bush asked.

The President said he shared bankers' faith in a free market and their frustration with "an overreactive Congress that has consistently failed to give the banking industry the tools it needs to compete in the 21st century, instead piling on more and more social policy responsibilities and creating a climate that discourages prudent risk-taking."

He called the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act of 1991 "the highest expression of the over-regulatory mindset."

If reelected, Mr. Bush said he would build on this year's unsuccessful Credit Availability and Regulatory Relief Act, which was an attempt to roll back some of the regulatory excesses of the improvement act.

"I will also continue the effort at the administrative level to ensure that unnecessary rules are eliminated, surviving rules are as reasonable, as possible, and paperwork reduced," said the President.

"Congressional overreaction has created a chilling effect, seriously retarding risk-taking by bankers, creating a climate of fear in a system that must assume prudent risk to fulfill the economy's credit needs," he said.

Mr. Bush said he would continue to press for legislation to modernize the banking system so that bankers can compete equally with nonbank firms.

"The traditional domestic banking franchise continues to erode as prime business borrowers fund directly in the capital markets; and as automobile manufacturers make car loans and join department stores, gas stations, and telephone companies in issuing credit cards; and as mutual funds attract investors' money away from bank deposits," Mr. Bush said.

"The distinction between my agenda and that of my opponent could not be sharper. I need your support on Nov. 3 to ensure that a revitalized and competitive bank and thrift industry serves as a healthy catalyst of economic growth for years to come."

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