Alexandria Mayor James P. Moran Jr. flirted briefly with no-new-taxes politics before backing away yesterday, telling a congressional campaign forum he opposes a federal tax increase but might consider one as a last resort.

Rep. Stan Parris, Moran's Republican opponent for Northern Virginia's 8th Congressional District seat, said he also would favor new taxes only if alternatives fail.

Moran, a Democrat, addressed a forum sponsored by the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce and offered conflicting remarks on the tax issue that he later acknowledged "might have been confusing." Parris was not present at the forum -- he will address the group next week -- and offered his views on taxes in a telephone interview.

"I will not suport any revenue-raising increase," Moran said in response to panelists' questions, but later added "there may be some tax increases that are reasonable" if spending cuts fail to balance the budget.

Responding to additional questions, Moran said, "I think a trillion-dollar budget is enough and I'm not inclined to support new taxes . . . . I think the first place you look {to cut the budget} is on the expenditure side. {But} I don't want to say, 'Read my lips, no new taxes,' and play political games."

Moran said after the forum that he considered his remarks consistent, "but I can understand why it might have been confusing . . . . It would have been nice to say 'No taxes, not ever' . . . . That works politically, but does not make for very good public service."

Parris said yesterday that he wants to cut spending and not raise taxes. But he said he might support some tax increases if they are part of a deficit reduction program that includes meaningful spending cuts.

"When I see the package I will make a decision," Parris said. "If that total package ends up 51 percent positive and 49 percent negative, I've got to vote for it."

Although yesterday's rhetoric was cool, Moran and Parris have already begun taking public potshots at each other. Last month, during an exchange over the Persian Gulf crisis, Parris compared Moran to Moammar Gadhafi and Yassir Arafat, and Moran threatened to break Parris's nose.

Parris lashed out at Moran again at a weekend Republican Party gathering sponsored by Virginia Sen. John W. Warner at his Middleburg estate. Parris and his wife, Martie, brought their pet dog.

"That little dog Martie and I brought with me goes to {obedience} school in downtown Alexandria," Parris said.

"He knows more about City Hall than anybody else in Alexandria. That could be worth knowing in this election year," Parris said.

Parris said yesterday he "didn't mean {the remark} in an ugly way."

Moran called it "a stupid comment. It annoys me that he attacks by personal character and ability."