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Originally published September 12, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 18, 2008 at 12:40 PM

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Election 2008

Burner rolls out tax plan

Democratic congressional candidate Darcy Burner released an economic plan Thursday that she said would save families about $4,500 a year through extra tax deductions and credits.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Democratic congressional candidate Darcy Burner released an economic plan Thursday she said would save families nearly $4,500 a year through extra tax deductions and credits.

Her opponent's campaign called the plan a "gimmick," and claimed Burner actually would raise taxes by eliminating the Bush administration tax cuts that Congress passed in 2001 and 2003.

Burner is challenging U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, in the 8th Congressional District, which includes parts of eastern King and Pierce counties.

Reichert has said he supports making the Bush tax cuts permanent.

The dispute reveals a fundamental disagreement between the two candidates, both of whom claim their plans would help the middle class.

Burner has said the Bush tax cuts unfairly favor the rich. She said she supports eliminating some of the tax cuts, but would keep those that benefit the middle class, including the elimination of the marriage penalty and cuts to payroll and capital-gains taxes.

Reichert supports all the tax cuts and said government should give some corporations and wealthy investors tax breaks so they can spur investment. That's especially true in the 8th Congressional District, he said, which is home to many Internet startups and new companies.

Both candidates claimed the other side was misrepresenting their position Thursday, rehashing a debate that emerged in 2006 when Burner first ran against Reichert. She lost that race by 2 percentage points.

Burner said her three-part tax plan benefits middle-class families by:

• Doubling the standard deduction on federal income taxes for a married couple from $10,900 to $21,800. That would save a couple making $76,115 a year — the district's median household income — about $2,700 a year, Burner said.

• Making permanent the state sales-tax deduction on taxpayers' federal income taxes. Congress has continued the deduction on a temporary basis, but it ultimately will expire without legislative action.

• Doubling the tax credit for child and dependent care, which Burner said would save a family with two children up to $1,200 a year.

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In addition, her plan calls for Congress to reduce the deficit, be more transparent about earmarked spending and use performance audits to streamline bureaucracy.

To pay for the plan, Burner would eliminate some of the Bush tax cuts and increase the tax rate paid by hedge-fund managers. She also supports reinstating the federal estate tax on estates worth more than $7 million.

In response to Burner's plan, the Reichert campaign sent out a slew of memos and press releases, all of which argued that Burner wants to let all the Bush tax cuts expire.

Reichert's campaign cited an April 2006 radio interview in which she said: "We have to make sure everybody pays their fair share. We should let the tax cuts expire."

It's not clear from a transcript of the interview exactly which tax cuts Burner was talking about. Her campaign said she was only referring to the tax cuts for the very wealthy. She doesn't want to let all the tax cuts expire, her spokesman said.

But Reichert's campaign disputed that assertion.

"This is Darcy Burner cherry-picking the tax issue to appear that she's tax-friendly, when in reality she wants to raise taxes," said Amanda Halligan, a spokeswoman for the Reichert campaign. "She supports letting the tax cuts expire."

Halligan also raised concerns about the effect of Burner's plan on trade. Burner wants the U.S. to establish more rigorous environmental and labor standards before making trade agreements. Reichert believes the current standards in proposed agreements go far enough.

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or eheffter@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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