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Angela Merkel opponents defend tax plans

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s opponents defended their plans for tax increases Thursday and dismissed talk of a possible alliance with a hard-left party as polls showed them still trailing badly ahead of Germany’s Sept. 22 election.

Center-left challenger Peer Steinbrueck’s Social Democrats and his allies, the Greens, have struggled to generate any momentum for change against Merkel, a popular conservative.

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She has hammered away at her rivals’ plans to increase income taxes for top earners, arguing that the government’s coffers are already in good shape and tax hikes would hurt a healthy economy.

Merkel also is seeking to mobilize supporters by raising the possibility of an alliance between the two center-left parties and the Left Party, which has opposed eurozone bailouts and reform plans and is against German military deployments abroad.

The center-left insists top earners should pay more taxes to help finance education and transportation infrastructure and reduce debts. It says it’s not enough to rely on a strong economy to keep boosting the government’s tax take.

‘‘Too little is being invested in Germany . . . things won’t work without a moderate tax increase,’’ said Winfried Kretschmann, the Green governor of Baden-Wuerttemberg state.

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