BY PAT CORCORAN | STAFF WRITER
GOP congressional candidate and state Sen. Peter Roskam wants to steer the election dialogue toward a conservative stand-by -- cutting taxes.
During an Aug. 2 campaign stop at the Bensenville offices of Central States Trucking, Roskam said that the starkest contrast between himself and Democratic nominee Tammy Duckworth is his pro-growth approach to tax policy.
The state lawmaker has pledged to eliminate the inheritance tax, also known as the "death tax," and said Duckworth needs to clarify to voters her position on taxes.
"I have a record now of almost 13 years in the General Assembly as a tax fighter and I have said unambiguously that I am in favor of making the tax cuts permanent," he said. "My opponent has been very ambiguous on that issue."
The stop in Bensenville coincided with the release of a Roskam campaign mail piece that claims Duckworth would make Illinois families pay higher taxes. The flier targets Duckworth's middling position on the Bush tax cuts, which she supports, but only in part.
Both candidates agree on the portion of the Bush plan that provide families with per-child and child care tax credits. They also agree that income tax rate cuts and the repeal of the marriage penalty should be made permanent.
Duckworth has repeatedly called for an end to tax subsidies for the oil industry and tax relief for middle-class -- but not wealthy -- families. For example, she disagrees with Roskam's position on the inheritance tax. Currently, the tax hits only those individuals with estates valued at more than $2 million.
Duckworth cites statistics that say a full repeal of the it would add more than $300 billion to the federal deficit and benefit only 8,000 U.S. families.
The exemption level is scheduled to rise to $3.5 million in 2009. At that level, only 3 of every 1,000 people who die will have an estate large enough to owe any tax, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
"There's different ways to be fiscally responsible while helping middle-class families and reigning in the budget. The Bush administration has stood by while costs for middle-class families such as tuition, health care and costs at the fuel pump have gone up," Christine Glunz, Duckworth spokeswoman, said.
By one U.S. Treasury Department estimate, the nation is $3.5 trillion in debt and rapidly heading toward $4 trillion thanks in part to paying for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Glunz called Roskam's talk of fiscal restraint out of place considering a Republican-controlled Congress oversaw years of excessive spending.
"I think it's obvious to most people that Congress has gone from having a hefty surplus to hundreds of billions of dollars in debt ... putting our economic security at risk," she said.
Roskam acknowledged the need for spending cuts and pointed to his record in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly as evidence that he can push for them in Congress.
"What we've seen in Illinois is an economy that is simply lagging ... compared to our border states," he said. "Why is that? Because of a lack of discipline, a lack of discipline on spending on programs like All Kids. I've been a critic of (Gov. Rod Blagojevich) for three years on the Senate floor in my role as the whip."
All Kids is Blagojevich's program to provide medical insurance to children whose parents cannot afford it.
Roskam, who was joined by U.S. Rep. Phil English, R-Pa., a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said long-term, the deficit issue will be addressed in part by the Bush tax cuts which will rev up the economy leading to increased tax revenues and improved employment and wage levels.
"Think about a company when taxes are cut. What will they typically do? They reinvest in the company," he said. "The trend line has shown us over and over again that when you cut taxes, things are dynamic and exciting and vibrant."
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