and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
February #3

Romney kept his promises and fought for taxpayers
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Friday, February 16, 2007

Right after he left office, Gov. Mitt Romney and his wife Ann sent me a note, saying "We admire your commitment and dedication to this cause, and appreciate your support and friendship."

Gov. Ed King thanked us too. Bill Weld sent a note praising my writing and advising me to write a mystery novel, which I appreciated; Paul Cellucci just left us rather abruptly with Jane Swift as acting-governor, which I did not.

Anyhow, I was happy to learn that Mitt and Ann Romney weren't mad at me for getting him into the governor of Massachusetts thing. I was one of those who called Salt Lake City during the Olympics and begged him to come home to run, since Swift couldn't win and with a one-party Legislature, we taxpayers really needed a grown-up in the corner office.

He hadn't planned to be that person, but after much urging on the part of many citizens, he gave in. Chip Ford and I met with him early in the campaign to ask him to sign the "no new taxes" pledge. He was very nice, spent a lot of time with us, and politely refused, saying that he was not going to raise taxes but we'd have to take his word for it.

I've known other businessmen-type politicians who have that attitude, thinking that it is somehow an insult to demand a formal pledge. We explained to him that the pledge wasn't for him: it was a message to the Legislature that new taxes would require a two-thirds vote to override a veto, so let's all get busy on better ideas right now. Nevertheless, he preferred the verbal version - which he had to give often since taxpayers and the media were accustomed to Republican pledge-signers.

Last month, he signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge for Americans for Tax Reform as a presidential candidate. My feelings weren't hurt; I just laughed, assuming that in four years of dealing with the Massachusetts Legislature, he got our point, and realized that Congress will need a firm message too.

Despite what some of his Republican opponents say, he kept the pledge he didn't sign. There were corporate loophole closings and fee increases, but I've never liked most corporate loopholes anyhow -- especially when the corporations oppose "people tax cuts." And while I don't like fees on top of all our taxes, I don't equate them with user fees and would prefer fees if our tax burden could be lower.

Gov. Romney made that effort. He ran on the income tax rollback and never stopped urging it - focusing on my favorite argument, respect for the voters on initiative petitions, something he also urged on the "defense of marriage" issue.

When the Legislature refused to roll back the income tax rate immediately, he filed a compromise version asking for a two-year phase-out. Legislators refused that too. He got actively involved in the 2004 legislative election, trying to get some help for his and the taxpayers' agenda; I found him one day in downtown Marblehead with the Republican challenger here, meeting and greeting on her behalf.

When the voters rejected every one of his candidates, the message seemed clear to me: they wanted the governor to perform "better-government miracles" without any assistance from them. Or they were happy enough just to have his promised veto of tax hikes and assaults on Prop 2, which we all came to take for granted.

It didn't surprise me that he started moving on after that election; a lot of people fantasize about getting out of Massachusetts, so why shouldn't he? Telling jokes about the political culture here didn't seem odd either; many of us who travel out of state joke about our home state ourselves before other people get a chance to tease us.

Gov. Romney did save us from one humiliation when he successfully opposed a retroactive capital gains tax, which would have sent a message nationwide that the commonwealth of Massachusetts is a fiscal nincompoop and nobody should invest money here. But when they look back on someone's administration, commentators sometimes don't take into account how much worse things could have been without him. We here in Massachusetts, of course, are about to find out.

I didn't ever expect him to stay for more than a term -- and I thought his lieutenant governor, Kerry Healey, was up for the job as his replacement. Now we have moved on to the question, is Mitt Romney the best man to replace George Bush?

It's hard to put that particular question in perspective without being mean to the current president. All we know is that Mitt Romney seems to have a similar patriotic sense of what it means to be an American, and presents it and himself well. He stopped special benefits for illegal immigrants here, where he had some authority. He controlled spending as well as a Republican governor with a Democratic legislature could. I thought he was the man to save Massachusetts in 2002; I've been a fan since he became governor, and nothing has changed my mind.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and Eagle Tribune, and often in the Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.