Flat tax supporters jeer Giuliani in Jacksonville


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) – Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani ran into a buzz saw of opposition Saturday when he explained his opposition to a flat federal income tax.

Giuliani addressed a group of about 500 people in a standing-room only crowd at a town hall meeting at the University of North Florida, answering questions on a variety of topics from Iraq and Iran to Social Security and his plan for tax cuts.

Several dozen people wearing white flat tax T-shirts and hats and carrying signs jeered when Giuliani, in response to a question, said he would not be in favor of a flat tax.

“I have to study it some more,” the former New York City mayor said. “I don’t think a flat tax is realistic change for America. Our economy is dependent upon the way our tax system operates.”

Giuliani emphasized he supported a simplified tax system and cuts in federal taxes, including elimination of the so-called death tax, but his response to the flat tax question brought some cat calls and jeers.

“I have a real question whether it would be the right transition for our economy,” Giuliani said.

Ken Mertz, wearing a flat tax hat and T-shirt, said he was not pleased with Giuliani’s response.

“I am disappointed in him. But he did say he would look into it,” said Mertz, a Fernandina Beach resident.

In a news conference after his speech, Giuliani said under his presidency that taxes would go down, saying his philosophy was different than the Democrats.

“They want to see them go up,” he said, noting that Democrat John Edwards has said he wants to repeal all of the Bush administration’s tax cuts. “That would amount to the largest tax increase in U.S. history.”

Two lesser-known rivals for the Republican presidential nomination – Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback and Tommy Thompson, a former Wisconsin governor and U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services – have voiced support for a flat tax. Businessman Steve Forbes, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination twice, centered his campaign around a flat tax that would have cut deeply into revenues. Forbes has endorsed Giuliani.

In response to another question, Giuliani warned against pulling out of Iraq, saying it would create a country run by terrorists. And he said Iran should be kept from getting nuclear weapons.

“No way, no how should Iran be a nuclear power,” he said.

Giuliani spent the latter part of the week crisscrossing the South, with appearances Thursday in Daytona Beach and Friday in South Carolina and Georgia. He was due to stop in Orlando later Saturday and then serve as grand marshal at the Daytona International Speedway’s Pepsi 400.

Last year’s guest was Vice President Dick Cheney and the year before that it was Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. President Bush was at the race in 2000.

AP-ES-07-07-07 1443EDT