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Bush Remarks Reassure Norquist; Trump Tries to Pay Little Tax

Posted on August 10, 2015 by William Hoffman and Kat Lucero

Jeb Bush's comments at a conference of GOP mega-donors August 2, that the Republican candidate would not trade tax hikes in exchange for spending cuts as part of a budget deal during his presidency, confirmed what antitax activist Grover Norquist told Tax Analysts he has long believed.

"I think this is Bush going to where he is in his heart, which is not for tax increases," said the president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). "It's pretty unequivocal," Norquist said August 3, while adding, "I'd be more comfortable if it was in writing."

Bush's wavering remarks on taxes and tax reform have unsettled the antitax absolutists in the Republican Party. Bush has consistently refused to sign ATR's anti-tax-increase pledge. He once offered to accept a hypothetical $1 "revenue enhancement" for $10 in spending cuts. He's periodically urged compromise on revenue increases as part of a budget "grand bargain." And he seemed to defend the deal that his father, President George H.W. Bush, negotiated with Democrats in 1990 that broke his "read my lips, no new taxes" pledge at the 1988 Republican national convention, and that some say sealed the fate of his 1992 reelection campaign.

But it was that defeat that informed Jeb Bush's policy on taxes, Norquist argued. Despite Bush's reluctance to seal the deal with ATR by signing its pledge, his tenure as two-term governor of Florida saw him cut taxes repeatedly, especially on investors, and he vetoed tax increases sometimes passed by the Florida Legislature, Norquist noted.

"I think there are two things here," Norquist said. "One is the issue; the other is the pledge." By refusing to take ATR's pledge, Bush has allowed the press to mention it in every story about his position on taxes, Norquist said. But his actions speak louder than the pledge, the antitax campaigner suggested.


Trump Embraces Minimizing Taxes

Donald Trump claims to be the first candidate in U.S. history to openly say that he tries to pay as little tax as possible.

"I fight like hell to pay as little as possible," Trump told CBS's Face the Nation August 2. He is the current front-runner in the Republican race to become the 2016 presidential nominee, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

During the Sunday show, the billionaire businessman went on to liken himself to "every single taxpayer out there," saying that he hates "what our country does with the money that we pay."

Face the Nation highlighted tax topics in the wake of Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton's July 31 release of her tax returns from 2007 to 2014.

Asked when he would release his own tax returns, Trump said he "may tie them to a release of Hillary's e-mails," referring to the controversy surrounding Clinton's e-mails that were stored in a personal server during her tenure as secretary of state.

Responding August 3 to Trump's proposed condition on the release of his returns, Martin R. Press of Gunster told Tax Analysts, "I follow politics pretty closely on both sides, and no -- I have never heard of that being done."

But the standoff over Trump's tax returns versus Clinton's e-mails is unlikely to have traction with voters, Press added.

"Absent cheating, in the end we have Trump and Clinton, who are rich," Press said. "Americans understand they're both rich, and they've both gone within the law, and they've both had great professionals preparing their taxes. In the end I don't think it makes any difference to the rank-and-file public on this issue."

"Trump has projects all over the world," Press added. "It is likely there is foreign income and accounts. These would be totally legal, but as the rules are complicated, these issues are potentially misinterpreted by people who are not experts in the field."

Trump did not say when, or if, he would provide his tax returns, nor did he say when his campaign would advance the candidate's tax policy plan. But on Meet the Press the same day, Trump hinted that such a proposal -- along with other issue stances -- has already been developed and is ready to roll out.