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McCain restores vow to balance budget in 4 years

Times Staff Writers

Three months after he discarded his pledge to balance the federal budget in four years, John McCain on Monday renewed his vow to do so, saying his tax cuts and spending cuts could kick America’s ailing economy into robust shape.

The Republican presidential candidate’s newly optimistic scenario for fiscal recovery came as he and his Democratic rival, Barack Obama, dueled over the economy.

McCain’s pledge also defied skepticism among fiscal analysts over whether he could balance the budget even within eight years, the more relaxed standard he set for himself in April amid dismal economic forecasts. Many say his proposed expansion of President Bush’s tax cuts would put that goal out of reach.

Speaking at a voter forum in the Denver Center for Performing Arts, McCain vowed to get “government’s fiscal house in order.” Obama, McCain told the crowd, would raise taxes and “destroy jobs across this country.”

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“The choice in this election is stark and simple,” McCain said. “Sen. Obama will raise your taxes. I won’t. I will cut them where I can. Jobs are the most important thing our economy creates. When you raise taxes in a bad economy you eliminate jobs. I’m not going to let that happen.”

In a swipe at Bush, whose unpopularity has been a drag on McCain’s candidacy, the Arizona senator accused the administration and Congress of failing to meet their management responsibilities, calling government’s growth since 2000 “inexcusable.”

McCain said a balanced federal budget would be a “catalyst for economic growth.” His campaign released a summary of his economic agenda that restored his abandoned pledge without explanation. McCain also hammered Obama for supporting budget “pork” for lawmakers’ pet projects.

Obama, who made an unscheduled stop in St. Louis after his charter plane had mechanical trouble, ridiculed McCain’s economic plans. He said McCain’s plan to pay for new tax cuts by eliminating pork would leave him $282 billion short of balancing the books.

Obama also accused McCain of lavishing tax breaks on “big corporations and multimillionaires.”

As for the deficit, Obama declined to set a date for eliminating it, saying, “I think it is important for us to make some critical investments right now in America’s families.”

The Illinois senator repeated his call for a $50-billion stimulus package that included energy rebate checks and a fund to help families avoid foreclosure.

Obama and his entourage were flying from Chicago to Charlotte, N.C., when an emergency slide deployed in the plane’s tail cone, causing the pilot to land in St. Louis.

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“We had a little glitch on our plane,” Obama told dozens of disappointed supporters at a Charlotte school by phone. “Nothing to worry about.”

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maeve.reston@latimes.com

louise.roug@latimes.com

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Reston reported from Denver, Roug from Charlotte and Atlanta. Times staff writer Michael Finnegan contributed to this report.


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