Tax The Rich and Banks, Says Spanish PM Hopeful


pain's ruling Socialists' candidate for prime minister in November elections said Monday that if he wins he will raise taxes on wealthy people and banks and use the extra revenue to create jobs, especially for young people.

Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, interior minister until a few months ago and the party' most veteran and prominent member, gave no details in a radio interview but estimated the tax hikes would bring in €2.5 billion ($3.6 billion).

"We have to ask for an extra effort from those who have most and from the financial sector," he said.

With an unemployment rate of nearly 21 percent, Spain has been struggling to crawl out of nearly two years of recession. The young, in particular, have been having a tough time — the jobless rate for Spaniards under 25 is a stunning 45 percent.

A poll released over the weekend said the opposition conservative Popular Party has a nearly 15-point lead over the Socialists ahead of the Nov. 20 election. The El Mundo survey had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Perez Rubalcaba's main opponent in the race to be prime minister, Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy, also spoke of taxes on Monday, but said he would not raise them. In fact, he would lower them for people starting up new businesses.

He noted that the Socialists in 2008 eliminated the wealth tax — a levy on a person's net worth beyond a certain level — as a stimulus measure when the economic crisis was in full swing, and suggested the Socialists now appear to be contradicting themselves.

"I have no plans to raise taxes, but rather to encourage economic growth and undertake reforms so the government takes in more revenue," Rajoy said. "I have just one priority, that there be economic activity and for this you have to support entrepreneurs."

Rajoy said he also wants to keep government spending under tight control but without sacrificing basic public services.

He has endorsed a whopping 20 percent budget cut announced for next year in the Castilla-La Mancha region, a Socialist stronghold that his party overtook in May regional and local elections. Other regions controlled by the Popular Party have followed suit, suggesting austerity will be key to the conservatives as the campaign unfolds.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez, who beat Rajoy in the last two elections, is not seeking a third term.

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