HENDERSON, Ky. — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul sidestepped questions Wednesday about revamping the federal tax code, a day after the tea party favorite took a stand to replace the income tax with a national sales tax.
Paul, a limited-government advocate, said he supports a "simpler tax code" but wouldn't offer specifics about his written comments to an anti-tax group supporting repeal of the 16th Amendment that created the federal income tax.
"I haven't really been saying anything like that," Paul told reporters following a speech in Henderson as part of his Kentucky bus tour. "I think it's probably better to go ... with what I'm saying on the campaign trail."
Paul, who is running against Democrat Jack Conway in a closely watched race, didn't mention the tax issue in his speech to about 100 supporters in this western Kentucky city. Instead, Paul kept to some of his main themes: criticizing President Barack Obama's health care and environmental policies that he characterizes as anti-business.
An anti-tax group on Tuesday released to The Associated Press a written statement from Paul saying he would support changing the federal tax code to get rid of the Internal Revenue Service, and he would vote to repeal the 16th Amendment. Paul's statement called the federal tax code "a disaster" and said he supports making taxes "flatter and simpler."
"I would vote for the FairTax to get rid of the Sixteenth Amendment, the IRS and a lot of the control the federal government exerts over us," Paul wrote in a statement verified by his campaign.
The FairTax proposal has been championed by the Texas-based group Americans for Fair Taxation and a newly formed affiliate, FairTax America Support Team. Paul's former campaign manager, David Adams, is a member of the affiliate's governing board.
Conway's campaign has said the FairTax proposal calls for a tax of nearly a quarter on every dollar.
"Working people are having a tough enough time making ends meet," Conway campaign spokeswoman Allison Haley said. "They can't afford Rand's plan to put a 23 percent sales tax on everything they buy – from groceries to gas to medicine."
When asked by a reporter about his written comments about taxes, Paul turned his focus on government spending.
"Right now the primary problem we have in our country is a spending problem," he said. "I am for a simpler tax code, and there are various ways you can get to it, but I think the first thing we have to address is ... spending."
He declined to answer further questions on the topic.
Conway spoke on Wednesday to about 50 people on the front lawn of the Old State Capitol in Frankfort and accused Paul of considering a litany of long-standing government initiatives unconstitutional, including Social Security and Medicare.
Conway also accused Paul of opposing laws to protect minorities and the disabled, as well as those setting standards for consumer protection, workplace safety and a federal minimum wage.
"Rand Paul on Monday night challenged me to step up and be a man," Conway said. "I'm going to step up and protect the Constitution of the United States."
Paul countered that Conway supported Obama's unconstitutional federal takeover of the health care system.
"Jack needs to read the Constitution," Paul said. "He needs to understand that ... there is no enumerated power for the current health care (law) to force people to buy insurance. He has a completely backwards understanding of this."
Conway, the state's attorney general, refused to join in a lawsuit by a number of other states challenging the law on constitutional grounds. Conway supports the health care overhaul but says it could be improved. Paul says he wants to repeal the landmark law and have Congress start over.
Conway campaign: http://www.jackconway.org/
Paul campaign: http://www.randpaul2010.com/