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Reagan Vows to Veto Tax Hike in Reform : Tells N.J. Crowd That Current System Is ‘Ready for the Ash Heap’

Times Staff Writer

President Reagan, describing the nation’s current income tax system as “ready for the ash heap of history,” said Thursday that he has a message for anyone trying to turn his tax plan into a tax increase: “I have a veto pen ready.”

Reagan, on a traveling lobby campaign against the opponents of his plan, “who’ll try to nickel-and-dime it to death,” sought the support of a friendly lunch-time crowd on a cool, windy day and said: “The sharks are circling our tax plan and trying to take a bite.”

As Congress was just beginning its work on the President’s proposal to revamp the federal tax system, Reagan visited his eighth state in less than three weeks on a series of trips intended to build voter pressure on the House and Senate.

He singled out for praise Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), who has endorsed the Administration’s plan but has criticized elements of it that he says would unfairly benefit some of the wealthiest taxpayers.

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Could Help Reagan

Bradley had been among those who advocated an overhaul of the tax system before the President made it a focus of the beginning of his second term, and the senator’s support could help Reagan among Democrats.

“We admire Bill Bradley, we’re glad he’s on the team, and his leadership is indispensable to victory,” Reagan said, with the state’s Republican governor and two Republican members of Congress at his side.

Bradley had been invited to visit Bloomfield with Reagan but attended a Senate Finance Committee meeting on tax revision instead.

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It is to just the sort of audience Reagan faced Thursday, as he stood on the steps of the red brick municipal building, that the President is pitching his program.

An old town outside Newark that traces its roots to the start of the 19th Century--it was named after Gen. Joseph Bloomfield, a Revolutionary War hero and former governor of New Jersey--Bloomfield, population 53,000, is a municipality of light industry and small, single-family, wood-frame houses.

Crowd of Thousands

Several thousand persons--retirees, laborers in T-shirts and young men and women in their 20s--turned out for the speech. The town spent $2,500 to polish the bronze front doors of the municipal building, a cleanup performed for the first time since 1927, the mayor said.

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“Our proposals will very likely spell tax relief for you and your family,” the President said, contending that the average family of four in the state, with an income of $35,450, would pay $650 less in federal income taxes each year if his program were enacted.

The plan would reduce and simplify individual tax rates. It would remove deductions allowed for state and local taxes, increase the allowances for individual exemptions and trim to three levels the current system of up to 15 tax brackets.

“Our current tax system is ready for the ash heap of history,” Reagan said, cautioning his audience that some opponents “will use any false argument they can, any scare tactic to cloud the truth and raise confusion.”

Toughest Criticism

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The tax plan has faced some of its toughest criticism in such high-tax states as neighboring New York, where higher state income tax deductions would be denied to federal taxpayers.

“Our plan will not increase the deficit, nor will it be used to raise revenue,” Reagan said. “Some people are talking about turning tax reform into a tax increase. Well, let me tell you: Anyone who tries that, I have a veto pen ready for them.”

On Tuesday, Rep. William H. Gray III (D-Pa.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, said Congress should raise taxes to help bring down the federal budget deficit, and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) raised the possibility of a $50-billion tax increase over five years.


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