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No way to avoid tax hikes, politicians say. Presidential hopeful Baker splits with White House on more taxes

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In a move that reflects growing GOP doubts about Reagan economic policies, former Senate majority leader Howard H. Baker Jr. has joined the chorus of Republicans calling for tax increases. Warning that the federal deficit would ``devour'' the nation, the Tennessee Republican said that President Reagan had made a mistake in promising not to raise taxes during the 1984 campaign.

Mr. Baker, who retired last year and is considering a presidential campaign for 1988, predicted that Congress would be forced to deal with the tax hike soon. He also told a breakfast meeting of reporters yesterday, ``I don't think Reagan's going to change'' his adamant opposition to taxes.

As the Senate leader who engineered passage of the Reagan tax reductions in 1981, Baker once called the President's economic program a ``river-BAKER6BAKER1 boat gamble.'' Now that deficits have grown to historic highs, he said, ``I think that the odds on it are not favorable enough'' to continue the White House program unless there are revisions.

If that view sounds like a key point in the failed presidential campaign of Walter F. Mondale, Baker has plenty of company among Senate Republicans.

``The question is not, Are we going to have revenues, but when?'' said Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R) of New Mexico, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, after the President rejected a $5-a-barrel oil-import fee.

Senator Domenici took his message directly to the White House during a tense meeting Tuesday between congressional Republicans and the President. As described by a fellow senator, Domenici gave a ``stern'' lecture, charging that the budget deficit would be $165 billion to $180 billion next year.

But the President was ``equally stern'' during the meeting in refusing to change his antitax stand, said Sen. Thad Cochran (R) of Mississippi.

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