Seeking to expand opportunities for job creation and entrepreneurship, U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and John Kerry, D-Mass., are advancing legislation that would give small businesses improved access to capital, helping entrepreneurs expand more rapidly.

"For small and middle-sized businesses, access to capital can determine the company's success in achieving potential growth in sales and jobs. These rapidly growing small businesses - which lay the foundation for our nation's productivity gains and economic growth - can help our economy to prosper while providing good-paying jobs," Snowe said.

She and Kerry both serve as members of the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees tax-related legislation. The two also serve together on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, which Kerry chairs.

The Kerry-Snowe Business Retained Income During Growth and Expansion Act would allow small- and medium-sized businesses temporarily to defer a portion of their federal income tax liability so they can continue making new investments. The two-year deferral, limited to a maximum of $250,000 in tax, would be repayable with interest over a four-year period. The tax-deferred amount would be deposited at a bank or other approved intermediary in a separate trust account - called a BRIDGE Account - against which the firm could borrow funds for business purposes.

Under the BRIDGE Act, eligible firms would be required to have gross receipts at least 10 percent greater than the firm's average receipts for the previous two years, and total annual receipts must not exceed $10 million. Any remaining tax deferral would be payable at the time of the business sale or merger.

Snowe and Kerry said their legislation could help between 79,000 and 95,000 small and growing businesses in fiscal year 2003, providing improved access to capital.