Manchester, NH (CNSNews.com) - Taking yet another step toward distinguishing herself from rivals, Republican president hopeful Elizabeth Dole outlined a tax reform package before Manchester Rotarians today, making it clear her economic proposals differ from those of publisher Steve Forbes and her fellow GOP contenders.
Dole's appearance followed her third place showing in the recent Iowa Straw Poll and the results were clearly pleasing to her. She characterized her finish as "a great victory," and was quick to point out she spent only $250,000 on the effort. She also lost no time reminding people that Texas Gov. George W. Bush spent triple her total, while Forbes may have spent six times as much.
"It was message over money and people over process," she said.
The tax issue is the latest effort on Dole's part to distinguish herself from other Republican aspirants. In a state with strong hunter and gun lobbies, Dole has called for increased gun control measures and contends the nation is not ready for a constitutional amendment banning all abortions. While insisting she is pro-life, Dole said she supports parental notification and the banning of late term abortions, as starting points in the abortion debate.
The candidate said if she were in the Oval Office, she would sign the Republican tax cut bill, recently passed by Congress. The legislation is currently facing a presidential veto.
Without mentioning his name, Dole said the proposed Forbes flat tax has provisions that are "detrimental."
In her speech, Dole characterized the Forbes flat tax proposal as "a disaster" for the nation's private charitable and religious groups, including the American Red Cross, her last employer, for whom she served as president.
Dole told the Rotarians, a tax that does not include charitable deductions, will make it increasingly difficult for private and religious charities to raise money and will reduce the public's incentive to give. The Forbes flat proposal precludes such deductions.
While not being specific, Dole said she will introduce her own "simpler and fairer" tax package in the fall. However she did give her audience a snapshot of some of its features, which include proposing a permanent research and development tax credit; the elimination of so called "death taxes," where estate heirs are penalized for their inheritance, for small business owners and family farmers and the elimination of the "marriage penalty" tax.
The candidate told her audience the nation must not be lulled into a sense of security, simply because the economy is strong and the stock markets are at near record highs. "We also have record highs in drug use among young people...and we're paying the highest taxes in 50 years."
Dole said her package would allow self-employed people, a mainstay of the New Hampshire economy, to deduct 100 percent of their health insurance premiums.
The candidate promised to "get the Internal Revenue Service out of your lives," and noted she has already signed the Americans for Tax Reform sponsored pledge to oppose any increase in federal income tax rates, should she be elected president.
In her speech Dole also touched on several other issues including education and insisted teachers must be allowed to regain control of their classrooms, including having authority to remove disruptive students, without having to fear retribution.
Dole said she would rebuild the military, which she said has suffered under the Clinton-Gore administration and would resume work on a missile defense system. "This administration has reduced the military to a triangle...we want to build it back."
On China, Dole urged a two pronged approach, including "vociferously complaining" about that nation's human rights violations and the stealing of U.S. nuclear secrets. At the same time, Dole insisted trade with the Communist giant must go forward, in order to benefit domestic manufacturing and farmers.
Dole urged the passage of "fast track" trade legislation, which would give the president the authority to negotiate agreements, without congressional approval.
Despite her enthusiasm, several in the audience said they found Dole's stump speech to be too long and rambling.
"She needs a shorter, more pointed address. It's as if she's trying to get something in for everyone. At this point, voters are probably more interested in taking the measure of the person," one Rotarian told CNSNews.com.
Some Rotarians said Dole is spending too much time on issues that appeal only to women voters. One male Rotarian said, "She has to remember there are male voters as well. I've seen her three times now and she seems to go right to the women. I doubt she can win this appealing so heavily too women and seeming to forget the other gender."