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The Associated Press August 19, 2010, 5:09PM ET

Carnahan joins Blunt in backing tax cut extension

In a change from her previous position, Democratic Senate candidate Robin Carnahan said Thursday that she now supports the extension of all tax cuts enacted during the administration of President George W. Bush.

Carnahan's position moves her closer to that of her Republican Senate rival, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, who has said repeatedly that he wants to make permanent all of the Bush-era tax cuts that are due to expire in January.

"Now is not the time to be doing anything to raise taxes," Carnahan said at the Missouri State Fair's annual ham breakfast. "We're still in the midst of a downturn in the economy, so we need to keep those tax cuts in place - all of them."

Blunt and Carnahan, who is Missouri's secretary of state, are competing in the Nov. 2 elections to succeed Republican Kit Bond, who is retiring after 24 years in the Senate.

In a February radio interview, Carnahan had said she favored extending tax cuts for the middle-class but not for the wealthiest Americans. She said then that the nation couldn't afford it.

Carnahan said in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press that her position has evolved because of an additional six months of difficult economic times, which she blamed on policies backed by Blunt. Carnahan said she supports making permanent the tax cuts affecting lower and middle-income people and extending tax cuts for wealthier people until the economy improves enough to consider ways of balancing the budget. She declined to specify how long that extension should last.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated Thursday that renewing all the tax reductions would cost government at least $3.3 trillion over the coming decade.

The tax cuts were enacted in 2001 and 2003 after Bush made them the centerpiece of his election campaign. They provided help for rich and poor alike, reducing federal tax rates across upper, lower and middle income tax brackets. The Bush-era measures also reduced taxes on capital gains and dividends; expanded tax breaks for education, married couples and families with children; and gradually reduced the federal estate tax to the point of repeal for this year.

Blunt's campaign said he has always supported making the tax cuts permanent, but went along with an expiration date in the earlier legislation to ensure the bills could avoid a Senate filibuster from some Democrats.

"All these tax cuts - these tax policies - should be extended," Blunt said during a campaign event Wednesday in Jefferson City at the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

If the tax breaks were allowed to expire, Blunt said, it would amount to the biggest tax increase in U.S. history.

"This is the absolute worst time to be talking about raising taxes," Blunt said Tuesday as he rolled out an economic plan that called for cutting government spending and taxes.

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