Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump backtracked on Monday on his remarks about raising taxes on wealthy Americans, saying the rich might simply get a smaller tax cut than he originally proposed.
Trump walked away from his Sunday comment that taxes on the wealthy would “go up” once his broad tax policy proposals, which include tax cuts for rich Americans, were negotiated with Congress. That appeared to be a break with traditional Republican support for lower taxes in all income brackets.
On Monday, Trump said he did not mean to imply he was willing to raise taxes for people in higher-income brackets from their current level, but was referring to potential adjustments to his own tax policy proposal.
“I may have to increase it on the wealthy – I’m not going to allow it to be increased on the middle class,” Trump said on CNN. “Now, if I increase it on the wealthy, that means they’re still going to be paying less than they are paying now. I’m talking about increasing it from my (original) tax proposal.”
The proposal, released in September, included broad tax breaks for businesses and households, with the highest income tax rate cut to 25 percent from the current 39.6 percent.
Trump, a billionaire real estate developer, said on Monday that lowering taxes on the middle class and businesses was his priority.
“I’m not talking about a tax increase. I’m talking about a tremendous tax decrease, OK?” Trump said on the Fox Business Network. He said proposals always changed in negotiations with Congress but that he was committed to cutting taxes.
The contradictory statements came as Trump began pivoting to a general election race against likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Trump effectively clinched the Republican nomination for the Nov. 8 presidential election last week after his last two rivals dropped out of the race.
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former Bush administration official who also advised Republican John McCain during his failed 2008 presidential run, said Trump was trying to make his economic plans add up.
“He’s gone from wildly unrealistic to impenetrable” on the subject of taxes, Holtz-Eakin said, adding that Trump’s comments about the outcome of possible negotiations with Congress “makes me confused as to what he really wants.”
Trump did win support from influential anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, who said on CNBC on Monday that some people with a lot of tax credits might see some increase, but that rates would drop overall under Trump’s plan.