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Crawford: Surtax vote would break pledge

Andrew Demillo

Republican Congressman Rick Crawford said Friday that voting for his proposal to raise taxes on millionaires would violate an anti-tax pledge he signed, but that his party must be willing to support hikes in exchange for long-term deficit reductions.

Facing criticism from fellow conservatives over his tax increase proposal that's tied to a balanced budget amendment, the freshman lawmaker from Arkansas defended the plan and said that other members of his party need be more willing to compromise on tax issues.

"I know it's a fundamental tenet of Republicans not to raise taxes, but in the world we're living right now with the budget situation being what it is, I think Republicans have to take their head out of the sand and say `you know what? We're on course to have to increase revenue,' " Crawford told The Associated Press. "And if we do that, it better be worth something, and we better make sure we're getting a permanent reform out of it."

Crawford acknowledged that he'd violate a pledge he made to not raise taxes if he voted for the legislation, after initially claiming Friday the legislation wouldn't break that promise. Crawford said later that day that he hasn't broken the pledge because he hasn't voted for the tax hike yet.

"I don't ever want to vote for a tax increase but if we have to break that pledge, don't you think it ought to be for something meaningful?" Crawford said. "Right now, I haven't broken that pledge and I hope I don't have to, but I almost don't really see any scenario where we're not going to be put in that position to make that choice. That's wishful thinking."

Crawford's proposal, which he unveiled Thursday, would levy a 5 percent surtax on individual incomes over $1 million in exchange for congressional passage of a balanced budget amendment. If the amendment is ratified by the states, it would last 10 years. Otherwise, it would only last five years.

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said Thursday that he didn't view Crawford's proposal as a serious effort and didn't believe it would ever come up for a vote. Norquist said voting for the surtax would violate the pledge Crawford signed for the group.

"I think what he's doing is strategically a mistake," Norquist said.

Crawford was elected to the historically Democratic 1st district and campaigned partly on his opposition to higher taxes. Crawford doesn't have an challenger in the May 22 GOP primary, but faces a difficult re-election bid this fall in his east Arkansas district. He said he's received some support for his legislation, but said some of the strongest objections have come from members of his own party.

"I've been told I need to fix this or my fundraising will dry up. I'm sure you've read quotes from conservatives saying that I'm off my rocker," Crawford said. "But as far I'm concerned, this is a fight over true conservative values."

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Andrew DeMillo can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/ademillo

The Associated Press