Romney: ‘I never paid less than 13 percent’ in taxes

Holly Bailey
The Ticket

Mitt Romney said Thursday he's never paid less than a 13 percent tax rate over the last 10 years and blasted Democratic critics, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, for suggesting he's paid no taxes.

"I just have to say, given the challenges that America faces—23 million people out of work, Iran about to become nuclear, one out of six Americans in poverty—the fascination with taxes I've paid I find to be very small-minded compared to the broad issues that we face," Romney told reporters at a last-minute press availability in Greer, S.C., where he's fundraising today. "But I did go back and look at my taxes, and over the past 10 years I never paid less than 13 percent. I think the most recent year is 13.6 or something like that. So I paid taxes every single year."

Adding in his contributions to charity, Romney said, bumped up his tax rate to "well above 20 percent."

Romney called Reid's charge that he paid no taxes "totally false."

"I'm sure waiting for Harry to put up who it was that told him what he says they told him," Romney said. "I don't believe it for a minute, by the way."

The presumptive Republican nominee spoke to reporters just off the tarmac in Greer in what was clearly a way to highlight President Barack Obama's lack of recent press conferences. As Romney spoke, the Republican National Committee blasted out an email to reporters noting that Obama hasn't held a press conference in eight weeks—in spite of granting interviews to outlets like "Entertainment Tonight" and ESPN.

Just before Romney took the mic, his aides set up a white dry-erase board, which the candidate used to highlight the differences between his proposal on Medicare and Obama's. Romney has accused Obama of slashing more than $700 billion from Medicare to pay for his health care plan—cuts Romney has repeatedly said he would "restore" if he wins the presidency.

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On the trail, Romney has regularly assailed Obama for his lack of private sector experience—suggesting that the little time he's spent in the "real world" of business is why he hasn't been able to create more jobs.

Asked how he squares that criticism with the fact that his new running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, does not have significant private sector experience, Romney downplayed the contradiction, insisting Ryan brings other important qualities to the ticket.

"I'm different than Congressman Ryan," Romney said. "We're a team. I have a different background than he has. He has a background that will be very helpful to me if I become president because he spent 14 years working in Washington, working with Democrats, working with members of the staff in various administrations. He understands the process and mechanics of Washington and the personalities in Washington. That will be very helpful to my administration. ... We're a team. We bring in complementary skills."