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Rep. Dan Lungren blasted Democratic challenger Ami Bera Sunday afternoon over comments he reportedly made in support of increased gas taxes, accusing his challenger in the 7th Congressional District of pursuing a vision of "tax and spend."

"He wants you to pay more at the pump than you do now, not for infrastructure but for punishing you, because he says as a doctor he knows how that's changed (behavior)," the Gold River Republican said at a forum sponsored by the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association. "Well I guess the single mom who has to drive her child to soccer ought to be punished for that. They ought to pay higher rates. You see his answer every time is to tax more, tax more, tax more."

Lungren was citing comments Bera reportedly made to more than 7,500 voters during a 2010 telephone town hall conducted by the Democrat's first campaign to unseat the incumbent Republican congressman.

"One idea that certainly is out there is thinking about a gas tax to reduce consumption," Bera said at the time, according to the Elk Grove Citizen. "As a doctor, (I) certainly saw what happened to smoking rates (with cigarette taxes), so that's something that's worth exploring."

Bera now says he is opposed to an increase in the gas tax and has never believed such proposals are worth exploring. He suggested in an interview after the forum that he had been misquoted, but could not offer an explanation when asked why he never asked for a clarification or correction of an article published more than two years ago.

Lungren also criticized Bera for saying, in that same Elk Grove Citizen piece, that tax cuts created during George W. Bush's presidency should expire. Bera now says he supports letting the cuts expire for those making more than $1 million.

The rematch between Lungren and Bera is considered one of country's most competitive congressional races. Lungren defeated his opponent by seven percentage points in 2010, the state's new House district maps have created a virtually even split between Democrats and Republicans in the Sacramento County seat.


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