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Romney clarifies his tax-reform plan in exclusive Blade interview


Republican candidate for president Mitt Romney speaks with Blade politics writer Tom Troy on Wednesday.


BEDFORD HEIGHTS, Ohio — Contrary to what has become a boilerplate part of President Obama's campaign speeches, high-income taxpayers will not see their tax bills fall under Republican Mitt Romney's tax-reform plans, Mr. Romney told The Blade in an exclusive interview Wednesday.

"A fundamental principle of my tax reform plan is that high-income people do not receive a tax cut, Point One. Point Two, middle-income people get some tax relief with no tax on interest, dividends, and capital gains," Mr. Romney said. "Under no circumstances whatsoever will there be a tax increase for middle-income Americans."

The Romney tax reform plan calls for a 20 percent across-the-board cut in income taxes, but Mr. Romney believes that higher-income earners’ total tax bill would remain about the same because they would lose valuable deductions and exemptions.

"Our plan is we're reducing the tax rate, and we're also reducing deductions and exemptions so that revenues to the government remain the same, and so high-income people don't pay lower taxes. Middle-income people will pay lower taxes because I'm eliminating the tax on interest, dividends and capital gains," Mr. Romney said.

Mr. Romney said he's been consistent with that message throughout his campaign, but if so, it's one that has been drowned out by the constant attacks of President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on the Romney tax reform plan.

According to the Obama campaign, Mr. Romney's tax reform plans will mean a $250,000 saving for millionaires and billionaires and an extra $2,000 from middle-class taxpayers.

"He makes it up. He and his campaign simply make up what they think will hurt my campaign, and it's been relatively effective, because they run those ads in a state like Ohio. If they were true he would have a better prospect, but they're not true," Mr. Romney said.

The former governor of Massachusetts and native of Michigan sat down with The Blade for 7 minutes after a town-hall-style campaign event in the American Spring Wire Corp. factory in Bedford Heights, a suburb of Cleveland.

Mr. Romney has been largely silent on the impact of his tax reform plan on the kind of lower-income taxpayers who do not own stocks and do not report business or stock profits, known as capital gains.

Fact-check organizations have differed on whether it's possible for Mr. Romney's plan to maintain total tax revenues while implementing a 20-percent across-the-board tax reduction without slashing the deductions that benefit lower-income taxpayers, such as mortgage interest, state and local taxes, and charitable gifts.

Asked whether those kinds of deductions and exemptions would be eliminated as part of his plan, Mr. Romney was evasive.

"These are the kinds of things that get worked out in Congress, as you go back and forth between Democrats and Republicans, very much like you go back to the Reagan plan, he talked about bringing taxes down," Mr. Romney said.

He said his plan will simplify the rates, make it easier for people and companies to file taxes, and eliminate some of the deductions and loopholes in the corporate tax code. A Romney campaign staffer clarified later that the Romney plan assumes that no one who is now exempt from paying federal income taxes will start paying taxes, and that no one would pay higher taxes.

The Obama campaign continued to assert that Mr. Romney's tax plan calls for more tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.

"He says he’ll limit tax deductions, but once again didn’t specify which ones," said Jessica Kershaw, a spokesman for the Obama Ohio campaign. "That’s probably because independent analysts have said he’d have to eliminate those that are critical to the middle class like the mortgage interest deduction and charitable contributions while raising taxes on middle-class families to pay for tax cuts for millionaires.”

She said this happens as Mr. Romney continues to "park millions of his personal fortune in tax havens all around the world."

Mr. Romney said he's counting on the upcoming debates to help him get out his message of "change," and he waved off recent polls that show him losing ground in battleground Ohio to President Obama.

"Polls go up and down and this is a pretty clear choice between two different directions. One is the status quo, which I don't think is working too well for the people of Ohio. The other is the direction that creates jobs," Mr. Romney said. "We'll have a chance in the debates and in the weeks ahead to describe our vision for the country, and I think the American people want real change."

The newest poll on the presidential race, released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University, CBS News, and the New York Times, said President Obama would win by 53-43 percent in Ohio if the election were held now.

Asked why he thinks Mr. Obama seems to be connecting with Ohio voters and he is not, Mr. Romney said, "I think sometimes people get caught up in the atmosphere of politics and don't stop and think about the significance of the course America will take over the next four years and the next decades.

"It's important for people in Ohio to understand that the President and I would take the country in very different directions, and the direction I represent includes a lot more jobs and higher take-home pay.’’

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