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GOP US Sen. Brown, Democrat Warren joust on taxes

By Steve LeBlanc
Associated Press / April 20, 2012
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BOSTON—Senate Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren signaled on Friday that she hasn't voluntarily paid a higher income tax rate on her Massachusetts tax returns than required.

Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown's campaign had pressed Warren on the issue after she criticized him for voting again a bill that would have increased taxes on millionaires.

"I paid my taxes and I did not make a charitable contribution to the state," Warren said when asked if she opted to pay a higher 5.85 percent rate on her Massachusetts income tax, as allowed under state law, rather than the standard 5.3 percent rate.

Brown's campaign said that he has too decided against paying the voluntary higher tax rate.

During an interview on WTKK-FM on Friday, Brown was also asked if he would release his tax returns.

Brown said he would probably make public the last five or six years of returns that he and his wife, Gail Huff, had filed.

"I'm happy to, I've got nothing to hide," he said. "Gail and I would certainly love to be transparent and in this position you need to be and if there are any questions, great."

"So we'll probably, we're considering releasing six years, five-six years I don't care, whatever," he added.

Brown did not indicate when he might make the returns public.

Warren has already said she would release two years of returns if Brown did the same. On Friday, she said if Brown were to release more than two years, she would discuss the possibility of releasing additional years.

The Brown campaign called Warren, a Harvard University law professor and consumer advocate, "hypocritical" for pushing for higher taxes for millionaires without saying whether she had voluntarily paid the higher state rate.

"The problem with running a campaign based on self-righteousness and moral superiority is that you had better live up to the same standard you would impose on everyone else," Brown campaign manager Jim Barnett said Friday.

According to federal disclosure reports, Warren was paid $429,981 as a Harvard law professor from 2010 to 2011 and got nearly $134,000 in consulting fees on legal cases in 2010.

Warren and her husband, Bruce Mann, who also teaches at Harvard, reported investments, bank accounts and other various holdings worth more than $3 million. Warren reported her home near Harvard Square in Cambridge is worth between $1 million and $5 million.

Brown's criticism surfaced after Warren and other Democrats faulted him for voting against the so-called "Buffett rule" bill in the Senate on Monday that would have increased taxes on millionaires.

The bill is backed by President Barack Obama and named after investor Warren Buffett, who says he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.

Brown called the measure a political stunt and said it would hurt small businesses and make the economy worse. He also argued that raising taxes on any group in a fragile economy won't help add jobs.

Warren called Brown's focus on how much she paid in state taxes a way to distract from his vote.

"He's trying to find some way to change the conversation," Warren said.

Brown said the bill, which failed on a near party line vote, would do little to ease federal budget woes.

"It will raise in one year only enough revenue to pay for less than a day of federal spending," Brown said after he voted against the bill. "It doesn't create a single new job, or cut the national debt."

Warren said that not only is the bill a matter of tax fairness, the money it raised could also be used for things such as road and bridge construction, helping students repay loans, and paying down the national debt.

"To say that the billions of dollars that might be brought in by taxing those who make a million dollars or more each year is too trivial to consider is just wrong," she said.

Warren is Brown's likely Democratic opponent in the November election.

Warren answered questions about her returns Friday during a news conference in which she appeared with former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and called for passage of a campaign finance bill that would toughen reporting requirements and make it easier to identify major donors to political campaigns.

Warren said Brown cast the deciding vote to block the legislation when it was first introduced in 2010.

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Associated Press writer Bob Salsberg contributed to this story.

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