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Dole Again Touts Plan to Cut Income Tax Rates 15%

Politics: His campaign believes it's the issue that can win presidency for him. Clinton calls for expanded family leave, cites record on economy.

September 25, 1996|ELIZABETH SHOGREN and JONATHAN PETERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

DETROIT — Attempting to defy the polls and reverse his fortunes, Bob Dole on Tuesday returned to the one issue his campaign believes could still win the election for him--his pledge to cut personal income tax rates by 15%.

Dole has vacillated from one theme to another during much of the campaign, but speaking to a crowd of business executives, accountants and attorneys here, he declared his intention to push his economic strategy as his main message throughout the remaining six weeks of the campaign.

"For those who doubt my resolve, let me say that I intend to keep talking about this plan and how it will benefit American families virtually nonstop from now until election day," Dole said in a speech to the Detroit Economic Club. "The American people haven't had a tax cut for 10 years, and it's time they got one."

In an effort to draw a sharp contrast between himself and Clinton, Dole renewed his charge that the president was responsible for the "largest tax increase in American history" and accused him of proposing hundreds of new spending initiatives, even as he claims to shrink government.

"All his plans, all his proposals, all his ideas and policies are premised on a single notion: that the size and scope of government has no limits," Dole said. "He may have mastered the language of limited government, but his actions have persistently demonstrated a belief that government has all the answers."

Dole's biggest applause lines with the lunchtime address were the reiterations of his campaign proposals to cut personal income tax rates by 15%, offer a $500-per-child tax cut and halve capital gains taxes.

"All these measures are based on one simple belief: Money belongs to the people who earn it, not to the government that taxes it," said Dole, who appeared energetic and upbeat.

Clinton, for his part, campaigned in New Jersey, where he called for expanded family leave policies in the workplace and touted his record on the economy.

Given the abundance of positive news about the economy in recent months, Dole has had his work cut out for him trying to convince the American people that the economy needs saving and he--not the sitting president--is the one to do it.

Clinton has been trying to deepen Dole's difficulty by touting the improvements in the economy at every turn. "We got out of 'Who's to blame?' and we asked 'What can we do about our problems?' " the president told his rally by the courthouse in Monmouth County.

"We invited everyone to help us. We invited everyone to put aside their partisanship, their extremism, to roll up their sleeves and tackle America's problems, seize America's opportunities. It worked. That's why we're on the right track."

In 1992, Clinton carried New Jersey over incumbent President Bush, by 2 percentage points but narrowly lost Monmouth County--an area of suburban swing voters--by about 1,200 votes. Recent polls have shown him with a large lead in New Jersey, largely because of the support of those same voters who were skeptical of him four years ago.

Those are the same voters Dole is pursuing with his tax-cut plan, but polls show that the majority of voters still view the proposal skeptically, if they know about it at all. Nearly three-fifths of the respondents to a Los Angeles Times poll taken earlier this month said they consider the candidate's tax-cut plan "unrealistic."

"The president has a record that we think can appeal as strongly to moderate Republicans as it does to Democrats," said Joe Lockhart, spokesman for the Clinton-Gore campaign.

"If you can't sell your across-the-board tax cut in New Jersey, you can't sell it anywhere," Lockhart said in a jab at Dole. "And right now, nobody's buying."

Indeed, even Dole supporters at the economic club lunch were dubious that a plan such as Dole's would ever become law.

"I'm not sure how he's going to do it, but he says he's going to give us all a 15% tax cut," said Karen Piefer, 27, an attorney who supports Dole. "I'm a pessimist. I don't think we're ever going to see it."

Pat McGarity, a retired auto executive, said he likes the sound of the tax cut but feels Dole has not laid out enough details about the programs he would cut to both cut taxes and balance the budget.

"That's the believability gap," said McGarity, who also supports Dole. "He hasn't explained how he's going to pay for it."

During his speech, Dole suggested that he was going to fill in that gap, but again failed to name even one program that he would trim or eliminate. Instead, he explained in general terms that he would pay for his tax cut by stimulating the economy and adopting the budget passed by the Congress last year but blocked by Clinton.

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