Dole Wields Tax Ax, But Hedges On Flat Tax

Using Tax Day and a cardboard tax ax as props, Sen. Bob Dole tried Monday to train Americans’ tax anxiety on President Clinton, but found himself under pressure to support the flat tax he’s previously resisted.

At photogenic campaign stops in this quiet Philadelphia suburb, Dole described April 15th’s tax-filing deadline as the day Americans “go down and give everything they’ve got left to the government.” The presumptive GOP presidential nominee asked voters to consider that they’d be able to keep more if not for Clinton.

“Today’s the last day you can file your taxes and they’re higher because Bill Clinton passed the largest tax increase in the history of America,” Dole said at a noisy rally staged before a family-owned Italian deli.

As Dole criticized Clinton on taxes, his campaign released Dole’s 1995 tax filing. Dole and his wife, Elizabeth, reported an adjusted gross income of $533,415 and pegged their federal tax liability for 1995 at $136,848. Because they had paid $171,665 already, the Doles said they were eligible for a $34,817 refund. Of that, they had $27,500 applied to their estimated 1996 tax and requested a $7,317 refund.

The bulk of the Doles’ income came from his $149,000 Senate salary, Mrs. Dole’s $175,000 salary as president of the American Red Cross, $100,000 Mrs. Dole made in speech fees, and more than $112,000 in capital gains from investments.

Earlier, Dole and a delegation of the state’s most prominent Republicans, including Gov. Tom Ridge and former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, met at an old-fashioned malt shop with about a dozen local small-business owners.

A round of chocolate milkshakes smoothed the dialogue as Dole deflected calls for a flat tax.

“Why can’t we have a simple, flat tax?” asked pub owner Tom Buckton. Another businessman asked for a “true single tax,” while John Centrella, owner of the deli, called out simply, “Simplify it!”

Dole hedged, reiterating concerns aired during the GOP primary campaign, that supporting a pure flat tax could be disastrous for Republicans because it could be easily painted as a boon for the wealthy.

“When you say simplify it, obviously you hit the nail on the head,” Dole said. “We’re looking at a single-rate concept and one thing we want to make certain of with a so-called flat tax, single-rate, whatever, is that we’re not shifting the burden of taxes from big people to the people sitting around here.”

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