WASHINGTON - Leadership means getting things done.
That often means putting personal goals or pledges aside for the common good.
That's why President Bush faces a tough decision when the urban aid tax bill that squeaked through the Senate Thursday lands on his desk this week or next.
Despite his oft-repeated pledge to "never, ever" raise taxes again, Bush's decision whether to veto the tax measure will not and should not be easy.
Technically, the $27 billion package is filled with tax increases that are required to offset an equal amount of tax breaks in the measure, including several that are beneficial to the municipal bond market.
Of the 35 revenue increases in the bill, however, just over half were proposed by the Bush administration early this year. Most of those are what have been termed during the last decade as "revenue raisers" or "revenue enhancers" - items that speed up tax payments, extend existing taxes, or close loopholes. But they aren't traditional tax increases.
By contrast, the measure is filled with numerous economic growth incentives, many of which are supported by Bush and enjoy broad-based political support throughout the country. They include several that would help the municipal market, such as:
* Permanent extensions of mortgage revenue bonds and the low-income housing tax credit that expired June 30.
* An increase in the supply of bank-eligible debt.
* Elimination of the $150 million limit on the amount of bonds a 501 (c)(3) entity may have outstanding at one time.
* Simplification of the use of bonds.
Even though the President appears to have boxed himself in by vowing to veto any tax increases, he has a way out.
Bush has already agreed to sign the energy bill Congress approved just before leaving town, even though the bill contains numerous tax increases needed to offset tax cuts for the energy industry. Under some unexplained interpretation, Bush has decided that the energy bill does not contain tax raises and should be signed.
Mr. Bush should do the same thing with the urban aid bill.
He should stop whining and rise above his own rhetoric. Much like the senator in the early 1970s who suggested that the Unites States declare victory in Vietnam and come home, Bush should declare that the bill is not tax increase legislation.
He should take a position of leadership and declare that the bill is needed to help put the nation's economy back on track.
Then he should sign it.