President Calls Criticism of Tax Plan ‘Balderdash’

Times Washington Bureau Chief

President Reagan heatedly denied Thursday that his tax revision plan would hurt the middle class and suggested that New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, a persistent critic, “doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to understand” the plan.

In addressing a group of 2,500 senior citizens at a convention center here, Reagan lashed out at the Democratic governor and “special interests,” which he said are opposing the bill “to preserve certain tax shelters and loopholes and make the rest of us pay for the special treatment that they and their big-money clients receive.”

In a television interview last weekend, Cuomo called the tax plan “devastating” to the middle class. Reagan, referring to Cuomo only as “a prominent national figure,” said he wound up “watching that show on the ceiling, looking down.”

Audience Laughs

“Well, if I may use a word that people our age will remember--balderdash,” said the 74-year-old President to laughter from the audience.

Reagan insisted that his plan’s provisions for cutting personal income tax rates and raising deductions and exemptions for families would mean that “every group in America will be better off . . . . And anybody who tells you otherwise doesn’t understand or deliberately doesn’t want to understand.”


‘22% Would Lose’

However, shortly before Reagan arrived, Jeb Bush, Vice President George Bush’s son and chairman of the Dade County Republican Party, told the crowd that some taxpayers would lose and others would gain nothing under the plan. “The facts are that 58% would benefit, 22% would lose out in some way and the rest would remain more or less neutral,” the younger Bush said.

In defending a provision of his plan that calls for eliminating deductions for local and state taxes, Reagan cited what he called “an important new study” by New York’s Republican comptroller, Edward Regan, which shows that taxpayers in that state would save $588 million under the plan.

“That’s the point,” Reagan said. “If individuals are better off, states are better off and America is better off.”

In Washington, Cuomo replied to Reagan’s attack by accusing the President of making misleading statements about the impact of the proposal on his state.

“The President is misinformed,” Cuomo said at a news conference organized by representatives from Northeast and Midwestern states to lobby against the repeal of state and local tax deductions.

Deduction Favored

Cuomo pointed out that the New York comptroller who issued the report cited by the President actually favors retaining the key deductions on grounds that New Yorkers would benefit far less than other states.

In addition, the governor defended his belief that the tax proposal would benefit the rich at the expense of the middle class and chided Reagan for calling his argument “balderdash.”

“Balderdash? He used that in a movie once,” Cuomo declared. “The President has a perfect right to use any words he wants. I have a different lexicon.”

Reagan’s 20-minute speech drew a warm response from the Tampa forum, which was organized by Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative coalition of business and community groups set up to lobby for the bill.

Little Enthusiasm

But local political observers said they have seen little enthusiasm for the tax plan. In the audience, Jack Ambrose, Tampa’s city budget supervisor, told a reporter:

“I’m much more concerned about the budget and trade imbalance than about tax reform, and that’s the consensus of people I talk to. I don’t see a lot of sentiment for tax reform.”

The President, still following a relatively light schedule in the aftermath of his convalescence from cancer surgery, spent little more than an hour in Tampa and returned to Washington almost immediately after his speech.

Under his plan of making a speech at least once a week outside Washington to support his tax initiative, Reagan is scheduled to travel next week to Concord, N. H.