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Gomez, Markey differ on economic remedies

Both Gabriel Gomez (left) and Edward Markey support a comprehensive reform of the federal tax code, but each candidate would approach that reform with a fundamentally different philosophy.

AP photos

Both Gabriel Gomez (left) and Edward Markey support a comprehensive reform of the federal tax code, but each candidate would approach that reform with a fundamentally different philosophy.

Republican Gabriel E. Gomez and Democrat Edward J. Markey share a common belief that gridlock in a broken Washington, D.C., is a drag on the country’s economy. But the two US Senate hopefuls otherwise part ways on issues that affect American commerce and jobs.

Markey supports increased taxes on the wealthy, while Gomez opposes them. Gomez, citing a need for a balanced budget, would not vote to increase the country’s debt limit without also cutting spending. Markey would, saying he does not “believe in holding the full faith and credit of the US hostage for political gain.”

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Both support a comprehensive reform of the federal tax code, but each candidate would approach that reform with a fundamentally different philosophy, according to a series of written responses each candidate provided to the Globe on economic issues.

Gomez, a private equity investor, said he does not support raising taxes on the wealthy “or on anyone” because higher taxes will not solve the country’s debt and deficit problems.

“We can’t tax our way to prosperity,” Gomez said, hewing to a standard GOP position. “We have to address spending.”

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Markey, who has been a US representative since 1976, stands more in line with the national Democratic Party in his openness to higher taxes, in particular on the wealthy.

He often says on the campaign trail that the wealthiest Americans and the biggest corporations ought to pay their “fair share.”

“If we’re going to be debating reductions in programs for poor people,” Markey said at a campaign stop in Boston last month, “I think that should ensure that the wealthiest also pay more.”

Pressed on just how high a tax rate he would like those with the highest incomes to pay, Markey repeatedly declined to specify. “Higher than they’re paying now,” he said.

Markey supports the so-called Buffett Rule, a proposal aggressively championed by President Obama during his reelection campaign that would set an income tax rate floor for Americans making more than $1 million a year.

The rule would restrict affluent taxpayers’ access to tax rates and loopholes that can allow them to pay a lower share of their income in taxes than those in the middle class.

The rule was named for billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who famously said he pays a smaller share of his income in taxes than does his secretary.

Gomez opposes the Buffett Rule, believing increased taxes on the wealthy, in whatever form they come, are imprudent and not necessary for the comprehensive tax code rewrite he favors.

Both candidates support lowering the corporate tax rate as part of a bigger change to the tax system.

Whoever is elected to the Senatenext week, however, is unlikely to have an opportunity to pass a comprehensive tax reform package into law this year, analysts said.

“I give it less than even odds,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “Unlikely to happen.”

One economic issue that is likely to be voted on by the state’s new senator is the debt limit.

According to the Treasury Department, sometime after Labor Day the United States will need to borrow more money than allowed under current law in order to pay its bills. Members of Congress will face an important choice about whether to raise the country’s debt limit, and under what conditions.

Gomez said he could not vote in good conscience to increase the debt limit “unless it were accompanied by spending cuts and reforms that put us on a path to long-term financial stability.”

“It is a failure of Washington, D.C., that we keep borrowing and borrowing and have yet to solve our spending problem,” Gomez said.

Markey said he would vote to raise the debt limit without any preconditions, explaining that he would not “risk economic collapse for political points by voting against raising the debt limit.”

A 2011 impasse in Congress over the debt limit rattled financial markets.

The markets are doing better two years later, but the unemployment rate remains high across the country and in the state.

In April, the last month for which statistics are available, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Massachusetts was 6.4 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The national rate was 7.6 percent in May.

Both candidates were asked specifically what they would do as a senator to help more residents of Massachusetts who want a job to get one.

Each responded by saying he would work to lower the corporate tax rate to help local businesses and offered a somewhat scattershot approach of other ideas, with Markey focused on federal government aid and Gomez emphasizing only tax reduction.

Gomez noted his belief that the “government can’t create jobs” but can only create an environment for businesses to create jobs.

He advocated a repeal of the tax on medical devices embedded in President Obama’s health care law.

Markey indicated he supports an approach more focused on federal spending. He said that “we should invest in roads and bridges right now and put people back to work repairing our crumbling infrastructure.”

Markey also advocated for greater federal investments in the clean energy sector and continued federal support for Bay State hospitals and defense contractors.

Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.
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