Berlusconi offers big tax cuts in "last great battle"
By Philip Pullella
ROME (Reuters) - Italy's former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi announced his "last great electoral and political battle" on Sunday with a sweeping promise to cut taxes and the cost of government if his center right wins elections this month.
In a passionate and much anticipated speech to supporters in Milan, the city where he built his fortune, he said only his center right could lift Italy out of the dark fog of recession and re-establish trust between government and citizens.
His political opponents were quick to deride him. Caretaker Prime Minister Mario Monti said Berlusconi "has never kept any of his promises" and one center-left parliamentarian called the speech "a laundry list of stupidities".
The centerpiece of Berlusconi's fiery speech was the unveiling of what he had billed beforehand as a "shock proposal" - a promise to reimburse Italian families for a much-hated tax on their primary residences.
That tax, known as IMU, was imposed last year by Monti's technocrat government to help with Italy's financial crisis, after it had been abolished in 2008 by Berlusconi.
The master communicator peppered his speech with repetitions of the words "tax" "taxpayer" and "tax man" along with references to "the anxiety of families".
He said he would scrap the tax at his first cabinet meeting and refund payments already made.
He promised a center-right government would eliminate a regional tax on businesses over the course of five years, reduce personal income tax rates, would not increase VAT and would not impose a so-called "wealth tax" on higher earners. Continued...