Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate and multimillionaire Stephen Pagliuca said Wednesday the federal capital gains tax should be raised from 15 percent to 20 percent, adding that the rich should pay an equitable share of the country's bills.
A co-owner of the Boston Celtics, Pagliuca said the tax hike would not deter investment while helping to pay down the country's $1.5 trillion budget deficit and $13 trillion debt.
"If you went crazy and raised the capital gains tax to 30 or 40 percent, yes, it would cut off investment. That would be a very bad thing to do. But in that (lower) range, you can create revenue. That revenue comes from the wealthiest Americans," Pagliuca said during an interview on WTKK-FM.
Further strumming a populist chord, Pagliuca said he disagreed with the Bush-era tax cuts.
"I think it got too far out of control in terms of squeezing the middle class and there were too many breaks, and I didn't believe in the trickle down," he said.
Pagliuca is among four Democrats vying to succeed the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who died Aug. 25 of brain cancer. Party primaries to whittle the field of candidates are set for Dec. 8. The special election is scheduled for Jan. 19.
Besides Pagliuca, Attorney General Martha Coakley, Rep. Michael Capuano and City Year co-founder Alan Khazei are seeking the Democratic nomination. State Sen. Scott Brown and Duxbury attorney Jack E. Robinson are vying for the Republican nomination.
During the interview, Pagliuca also said he wasn't responsible for 350 layoffs at an Indiana office supply firm that derailed the 1994 Senate campaign of his then-boss, Republican Mitt Romney.
In 1992, the Boston-based firm where both Romney and Pagliuca worked, Bain Capital, invested $5 million cash to buy the American Pad & Paper deal. By 1995, it had walked away with about $100 million in management fees, share sales and dividend payments financed through debt, according to investor reports. Ampad went bankrupt in 2000.
Pagliuca said previously he profited in proportion to his investment in a Bain fund that financed the Ampad deal, though he would not reveal the specifics.
"Bain Capital is like a law firm; we all work on different areas," Pagliuca said Wednesday. "I ran the informational technology fund. I was doing investments in information technology, so I had no involvement in that."
Kennedy highlighted the layoffs during the 1994 campaign, as Romney mounted the most vigorous re-election challenge of the senator's nearly 47-year career. Romney complained at the time because he had taken a leave as Bain Capital's chief executive during the race.
Distinguishing himself from Romney, Pagliuca told his radio listeners: "I was not the CEO of the firm. And I'll stand on my track record on all the deals that I did."
Pagliuca also defended himself against a caller who complained about gun control laws.
He said he didn't read about a single gun death during the three years he worked in Holland after college, and noted England had far fewer gun deaths than the United States.
"The only difference is, they have gun control in Europe and England," Pagliuca said.