NJ's Christie calls for tax cuts in economic policy speech

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NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie proposed Tuesday cutting income and corporate tax rates as part of a plan to return the U.S. "to its pro-growth roots and its pro-growth policies" and bolster the middle class.

Christie called for simplifying what he described as a bloated tax code by reducing the number of income tax rates from six to three. He also called for reducing the top income tax rate from nearly 40 percent to no higher than 28 percent and cutting the corporate tax rate by 10 percentage points, from 35 percent to 25 percent. He said the proposals were aimed at achieving a growth rate of 4 percent.

The likely Republican presidential contender laid out ideas in a Wall Street Journal article and a speech at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester in his latest foray into the early-voting state.

Christie repeatedly chided the economic policies of President Barack Obama, blaming him for a weak economic recovery that has left the incomes of middle-class families stagnant.

"From its inception, this administration has been focused much more on redistribution of wealth than on creating more wealth for middle-class citizens in America," he told his audience in the lengthy speech, which spanned nearly 7,800 words.

While Democrats have expressed increasing alarm at the gap between the incomes of the very rich and everyone else, Republican contenders have also been embracing the issue and pushing back against the perception that their party cares only about the wealthy.

"I will not attack or vilify those who have been successful, but America now needs leaders who will fight for our middle class by growing all of the economy and unleashing the opportunities that will come with growth," Christie said.

The governor said his tax cuts would be paid for by eliminating or changing deductions and credits, but he did not give details except to say that he would not eliminate deductions for charitable contributions or interest on home mortgages on first homes,

Christie also proposed eliminating the payroll tax for workers under age 21 to encourage young people to enter the job market. He said federal regulations should be cut and the Keystone XL pipeline built.

His plan drew criticism from Democrats, who said New Jersey's lagging economic recovery is no model for the nation.

"With so many questions, we can only refer to Chris Christie's economic record in New Jersey for answers, and those answers are pretty terrible for the middle class," said Kaylie Hanson, speaking for the Democratic National Committee.

Christie says he will decide by the end of June whether to run for president.

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