Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani drew jeers Saturday for saying he does not think a flat federal income tax is right for the country.
At a town hall meeting, several dozen people wearing white flat tax T-shirts and hats and carrying signs expressed their disappointment when Giuliani said he would not favor a flat tax.
"I don't think a flat tax is realistic change for America. Our economy is dependent upon the way our tax system operates," the former New York City mayor said. "I have a real question whether it would be the right transition for our economy."
People generally would lose breaks such as mortgage interest and charitable donation deductions but pay federal income taxes at a single — and lower — rate. Flat tax proposals typically promise simpler paperwork and the elimination of taxes on estates, capital gains and dividends.
Giuliani said he supported a simpler tax system and cuts in federal taxes, including elimination of the inheritance tax.
Ken Mertz of Fernandina Beach said he not pleased with Giuliani's response. "I am disappointed in him. But he did say he would look into it," he said.
In a news conference after his speech, Giuliani said taxes would go down if he were in the White House.
He contended that Democrats want to see taxes go up and said John Edwards wants to repeal the Bush administration's tax cuts. "That would amount to the largest tax increase in U.S. history," Giuliani said.
Edwards, the Democrats' vice presidential nominee in 2004, wants to spend more money on health care, energy and fighting poverty. To help pay for some of his priorities, Edwards would roll back Bush's tax cuts on people making more than $200,000 a year.
In the GOP race, two candidates — Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas and former Bush health secretary Tommy Thompson — have voiced support for a flat tax.
Businessman Steve Forbes, who twice unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination, centered his campaign around a flat tax that would have cut deeply into revenues. Forbes has endorsed Giuliani.
Giuliani also answered questions about Iraq, Iran and Social Security at the event, attended by about 500 people at the University of North Florida.
He warned against pulling U.S. troops from Iraq, saying that would create a country run by terrorists. As for Iran's disputed nuclear program, Giuliani said, "No way, no how should Iran be a nuclear power."
On Saturday night, he planned to serve as grand marshal at the NASCAR race in Daytona Beach.