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Senate contender touts tax pledge, flat tax plan

Former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette has sought to amp up his U.S. Senate campaign in the past few weeks by focusing on the reddest of GOP red meat: taxes.

Tom Del BeccaroHeading into the state GOP’s convention Sept. 18-20 in Anaheim, Del Beccaro staked out his place to the field’s right side by challenging his GOP rivals – Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside; fellow former state party chairman Duf Sundheim of Los Altos Hills – to join him in taking the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. As of Wednesday, they’ve not done so.

Crafted by Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, the pledge commits a candidate or officeholder to oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses, and to oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.

This week, Del Beccaro rolled out his plan for a flat tax, which includes replacing current personal income tax brackets with a flat 15.5 percent rate on wages and salaries, capital gains, dividends, interest and inheritance; replacing current corporate taxes with a 15.5 percent net business income tax with immediate expensing for business purchases and deductibility of wages and salaries; and eliminating all itemized deductions while doubling the standard deduction.

He touted the plan at fundraising events this week in Riverside, Newport Beach and Diablo, accompanied by his economic advisor Stephen Moore, co-founder and first president of the conservative Club for Growth.

In an interview Thursday, Del Beccaro said he’s working with the Committee to Unleash Prosperity – a conservative group founded this summer by Moore, two-time Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes, economist and CNBC contributor Larry Kudlow, and economist Arthur Laffer – to preach the flat-tax gospel in the Golden State.

“A simple flat tax takes government out of the business of picking winners and losers and will allow the economy to grow,” he said, declaring it the best way to help those still struggling in the Great Recession’s wake. “We’ve tried just about every spending mechanism possible and they’re still falling behind …The key is economic growth – otherwise people get stuck where they are.”

Critics of flat-tax plans argue they penalize the poor, in that everyone must spend on the same necessities of life – housing, food, clothes, health care and so on – but those earning less have less money left over after those necessities with which to pay taxes. That is: a 10 percent tax would be a much bigger proportional hit for someone earning $50,000 per year than for someone earning $5 million.

Del Beccaro said that’s why his plan would exempt a family of four up to a household income of $48,000: “It gives them a start.” He also said talk of redistributing wealth via progressive taxes to close the vast income and wealth gap that has opened in recent decades is divisive and unproductive.

“Class warfare is never good, pitting one group of Americans against another is terrible,” he said. arguing that wealth inequality is a product of economic stagnation and overreaching government. “The key is always economic growth.”

Two prominent Democrats – California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana – also are running in next June’s top-two primary to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. A fourth prominent Republican, Santa Monica businessman and two-time former senate candidate Al Ramirez, is exploring a run.

Del Beccaro said he’d gladly debate his plan with any of his rivals from either party. “They’re running for the office, I’m running for the ideas. … I’m trying to elevate this into an actual discussion.”