Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Hampshire Very Closely Reads Candidates' Lips

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Hampshire Very Closely Reads Candidates' Lips

Article excerpt

AKING the pledge."

Although most Americans probably associate the phrase with Alcoholics Anonymous, the run-up to the 1996 presidential primary in New Hampshire is highlighting another meaning: promising not to raise taxes.

Tax policy has emerged as the first hot issue of the Republican presidential race, with GOP hopefuls tossing out tax reform proposals like peanuts at the ball park. And New Hampsire's long-held sensitivity to taxes makes it an important proving ground.

Among the proposals now in the air:

*Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas promises to "oppose any and all efforts" to raise income taxes. Many observers say Senator Dole's refusal to take the pledge in 1988 cost him the New Hampshire primary; George "Read My Lips" Bush won it on his way to the White House. Dole has also spoken favorably of replacing the current income tax system with a flat tax.

*Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania suggests a 20 percent flat income tax, with deductions for some home mortgages and charitable contributions, and elimination of interest and capital-gains taxes.

*Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana proposes a 17-percent national retail-sales tax instead of the income tax.

*Former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander says he would not raise any federal taxes under any circumstances except war. He says he doesn't support Senator Lugar's sales tax idea because it would encroach on states' rights and be too easy to raise. He supports a flat tax, but would keep deductions for charitable contributions and home mortgages.

*Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas "has talked in general terms about supporting a flatter, simpler tax system," says spokesman Gary Koops, but he has not yet offered a specific proposal.

*California Gov. Pete Wilson took the pledge in New Hampshire and has spoken in favor of the Tax Policy Commission's attempts to achieve "a simpler, fairer, flatter federal tax system. …

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