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MITT ROMNEY'S TAX RECORD AS GOVERNOR:

In 2002, Massachusetts' economy was rapidly deteriorating and the state government's deficit spending was growing (economic.htm). Antitax activist Barbara Anderson recalled:

“I was one of those who called Salt Lake City during the Olympics and begged him to come home to run, ...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.”

By the time Mitt Romney took office as governor of Massachusetts, the current budget was running a deficit of approximately half a billion dollars [1], with about $650 million of deficit spending left to go before that budget expired. And the upcoming state budget for the year would have a deficit of nearly $3 billion if the budget was not cut or taxes increased. [2]

Senate President Robert E. Travaglini expressed the view that

“taxes will have to be raised to cope with the budget crisis, and said he and his Senate colleagues will lead the charge for new revenues...

“Travaglini's remarks point toward an almost inevitable collision between the new Senate leader and the governor, since Romney has vowed to veto any tax hike that reaches his desk.”

Governor Romney held firm and balanced the budget every year without raising taxes. [3] He fought to roll back the state income tax from 5.3% to 5.0% and created budgets based on a 5% income tax rate. [4] The legislature refused to reduce the tax rate, and by the end of his term, he had taken "Massachusetts from billions in deficit to billions in surplus". [5]

Although he did not succeed in cutting the income tax for everyone, like he wanted, he was able to get income tax cuts for many of those with the greatest need for tax relief. For example, in order to aid older homeowners and young families, he created an $800 tax deduction for home heating expenses for individuals with less than $50,000/year income or families making less than $75,000/year. [6]




Jim Cramer - TheStreet.com
Plays Hardball about Romney

Jim Cramer - Mad Money
Assesses Mitt Romney

And he also succeeded in getting other tax cuts. USATODAY reported "Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, signed a law that creates the nation's biggest tax holiday. All retail sales under $2,500 will be exempt from the state's 5% sales tax Aug. 12-13." [7] And when the legislature tried to raise the capital gains taxes, he not only successfully opposed it, [8] but he also got the capital gains taxes cut. [9]

But Governor Romney did raise some fees. Some critics have overstated the impact this had on the taxpayer, most of whom were not directly effected if effected at all, with one exception, as raising broad-based fees were avoided. Fees were raised on some business or individual services in an effort to cover the cost of services the fees were charged for, as in this case:

“Governor Mitt Romney is raising fees on the use of state golf courses ... it's fair to ask golfers to pay for the cost of maintaining these facilities rather than expecting taxpayers to subsidize them.”

However, until he was able to implement his healthcare reform, he also raised a fee to health insurers which upset the Citizens for Limited Taxation. [10] When all was said and done, Barbara Anderson, Executive Director of Citizens for Limited Taxation concluded, ''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 [taxes] with user fees.'' [11] As National Review reported,

“He [Gov. Romney] says, "we stayed away from broad-based fee increases such as driver's-license registrations." He says that balancing the budget without a tax hike has been his most significant accomplishment as governor. "We couldn't be happier with him," says Barbara Anderson of Citizens for Limited Taxation, the state's leading taxpayer group. Steve Adams of Boston's Pioneer Institute, a think tank, concurs: "Without Romney, we would have been slapped with a lot of new taxes." ”

Under the governor's leadership, the people in the state benefited not only by increased employment through the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs [12] and not having their taxes raised, but they also saw several more tax cuts by the governor, as the following article pointed out:

“He cut capital gains taxes, benefiting well over 150,000 residents. Thousands more are currently benefiting from new jobs in the biotech field because of Romney's manufacturing tax relief and because he made the investment tax credit permanent. Thousands of Massachusetts families saved their hard-earned dollars when Romney enacted sales tax holidays. Seniors are benefiting from property tax relief proposed and signed into law by Romney. Our honorable veterans and National Guard members have several new tax breaks because of Romney's belief that they should be taxed less. Commuters can now deduct expenses for travel because Romney believes they shouldn't be penalized for helping increase commerce.”

GETTING THE FACTS (ONE EXAMPLE)

WHAT WAS DONE: (Commuter Costs)

“Commuters can now deduct expenses for travel because Romney believes they shouldn't be penalized for helping increase commerce.”

“In the 20-minute live televised address, Romney laid out his agenda for 2005, which includes... merging the Turnpike Authority in a way that provides substantial and meaningful toll relief.

“For the last two years, I have asked for the Turnpike Authority to be merged into the state Highway Department. You know I don't give up easy. So, it's coming again, but with a big difference: This year, I will propose that all the savings from the merger go toward toll relief. The toll burden on the people of Western and Central Massachusetts is simply unfair and we all know it.”

“Merger savings that will be redirected to toll relief are estimated at $170 million in the first year and $20 million every year thereafter.

“Saying that the budget he submits later this month will be structurally balanced without drawing on reserves or relying on one-time funds, Romney said there will still be room to lower the income tax from 5.3 to 5 percent consistent with the will of the voters.”


“Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is proposing to abolish tolls on the state turnpike over most of its length. Tolls would only remain within the Boston Extension and the three tunnels under Boston Harbor, and a task force report suggests Boston Extension tolls also be abolished...

“Romney proposes that tolls west of Route 128 end on June 30 2007, an action he says can be accomplished by the MTA board of directors. Toll abolition on the Boston Extension requires legislation...

“The plan is claimed to save $69m to $105m a year in cutting overlapping operations costs, toll collection costs and debt service...

“Current toll revenues at the Turnpike are $334m, ...

“Against this year's $334m the Turnpike is incurring expenses of $270m for an operating income of only $64m. The task force projects expenses as rising steadily with rising health insurance costs a major factor while toll revenue grows a feeble 1.5%/yr and an operating deficit occurs in 2008...

“This is the biggest detolling in the US since the abolition of tolls on the Connecticut Turnpike in the mid-1980s. Tolls were abolished there after a tragedy in which a family in a van was incinerated in a fire caused by a rear-end collision at a mainline toll plaza...

“ROMNEY, HEALEY: TAKE DOWN TOLLS ON WESTERN TURNPIKE ...

“The Turnpike Authority is a mess, with an expensive cost structure and no ability to sustain itself except through higher and higher toll increases in perpetuity. This is not fair to the residents who live west of Boston and are bearing a disproportionate share of the cost of the Big Dig. It's time we start to dismantle this highly inefficient system.” (Gov. Romney)

“ "The Romney-Healey Administration has made toll relief a priority, and gaining control of the Turnpike Authority several months ago has allowed us to take some creative approaches to realize this goal," said Turnpike Board Chairman John Cogliano. "This is great news for people who ride the Western Turnpike."

“The Turnpike Authority board has the legal authority to act on its own, without legislative approval, and today the board voted unanimously to begin the process.

“Driving the decision are two main factors: 1) the inefficiency of toll collection, where the revenue collected is not justified by the high costs, and 2) the unfairness of asking western Turnpike toll payers to subsidize the eastern portion, the so-called 'Metropolitan Highway System' that consists of the Central Artery, the airport tunnels and the Boston Extension.”

“The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority board gave tentative approval Wednesday to eliminating all tolls on the roadway west of Route 128, both as a cost-saving measure and to satisfy drivers who have complained the state should have eliminated them years ago...

“ "The western drivers of Massachusetts have been ripped off, and it just doesn't make sense to keep that going on in the future," the governor said at a Statehouse news conference less than two hours after the board vote. "The people in western Mass. and central Mass. ought to have the same deal as the rest of the state."

“Most of the remaining 3,000 miles of highway in Massachusetts do not have tolls, including major commuting routes such as Interstates 93 and 495, as well as Routes 3 and 128. The Turnpike is the major east-west artery in western and central Massachusetts, limiting alternatives for cost-conscious commuters...

“Under the current setup, drivers in western Massachusetts pay more in tolls than it costs to operate the Turnpike in their portion of the state, meaning they are subsidizing Turnpike operations in eastern Massachusetts and the rest of the Metropolitan Highway System in Boston, which also is under Turnpike control.

“The proposal to eliminate tolls was drafted by Eric Kriss, the state's former finance secretary. He has been heading a panel reviewing Turnpike finances since Romney took control of the agency in mid-August following the ouster of Chairman Matthew Amorello. He resigned in the aftermath of a fatal Big Dig tunnel collapse in July.

“Kriss found that nearly a third of what is collected at toll booths is needed to pay for the actual manual collection of the tolls.

“Kriss said lost toll receipts would be offset by laying off about 200 Turnpike toll collectors, as well as by shifting administrative and maintenance responsibilities for that portion of the 138-mile roadway to the state Highway Department.”

“Top Romney administration officials conceded yesterday that the final decision will probably be made by the leaders of the Democrat-controlled Legislature and the incoming Democratic governor, Deval L. Patrick, who have expressed reservations about the plan that would end tolls on the 120-mile stretch of the turnpike from the New York line to Weston.

“ "If the Legislature and Deval Patrick want to keep the tolls up, then there's no question they will find a way to do it," said Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney's director of communications...

“With the majority of board members appointed by Romney, the authority could vote to remove the tolls over Patrick's objection. In that case, the governor-elect would have several routes to block the removal. The Legislature could expand the board to give Patrick control. Patrick will probably control a required state environmental review of the plan and any agreement by the Highway Department to accept the section of the road from Weston to the New York border as part of its network.”

“After meeting for 4 1/2 hours behind closed doors, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority board voted to slowly "move forward" with a controversial plan to remove all tolls on a 120-mile stretch of the road from Route 128 west of Boston to the New York State line...

“Governor-elect Deval Patrick said again this morning that he was opposed to any quick removal of the tolls without considering other transportation revenue issues. He is expected to use his gubernatorial powers to try to block any move by the board to implement the policy...

“Eric Fernstrom, a spokesman for the Romney administration, stood by the plan, saying toll collection was inefficient on the western Turnpike. The cost cuts are necessary to close a budget gap that is estimated to grow to $16 billion in the next 20 years, Fernstrom said.

“Romney wasn't able to accomplish all that he hoped, due to opposition from the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature. For example, Romney discovered that collecting tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike cost 30 cents for every $1 collected, in part because the toll collectors' union contract, which gives the collectors an average $56,300 a year in wages plus $9,880 in benefits. The Massachusetts legislature did not want to take on the union and lose a source of political patronage, however.

“Romney's bottom line in Massachusetts: He erased the budget deficit he inherited when he took over, just as he'd done with the Olympics.

“When Romney left office on Jan. 4, 2007, the Bay State had a balanced budget plus a "rainy day fund" - all without ever raising taxes.”

“One major fee hike was clearly excessive - a 2-cent-per-gallon increase in a special gasoline fee, implemented during the fiscal crisis without fanfare, even though it affects every motorist in the state.

“The increase generates about $60 million per year for a program to clean up contamination around underground fuel storage tanks, but since its inception has produced surpluses of more than $40 million a year above the actual cost of the program, according to a report done by the Department of Revenue in response to a Globe request.

“Raised from half a cent to 2.5 cents per gallon in April 2003, ostensibly to pay for a backlog of cleanup claims, the fee is on top of the 21-cent-per-gallon state tax on gasoline.”

Nationally, there is an “average state tax of 28.6 cents per gallon.”


WHAT WAS SAID: (Commuter Costs)

“Romney faced a budget shortfall upon entering office but left with a surplus, in part by raising taxes (2-cents on gasoline).”

“Romney also quintupled the per gallon delivery fee for gasoline (money that is supposed to be for cleaning up any leaks from underground fuel tanks).”

In the two sample articles, which represent fairly typical reporting on the governor, there is no mention of the attempted and successful commuter tax and fee cuts.

(In fact, there is no mention of any of his attempted and successful tax cuts.)

And there is not any accurate perspective provided on the fee hike, such as that he
- Removed a $3B deficit while not raising taxes, yet
- Dealt with a veto-proof legislature wanting tax hikes over spending cuts, and
- (in the case of the first article) The 2 cent fee was insignificant in that effort, or
- (in the case of the 2nd article) A quintuple fee hike amounted to 2 cents!

There was no context for the fee hike that was given in those articles, including that (1) there was a backlog of contaminated sites to be cleaned that the fee increase was intended to eliminate, and (2) after the backlog was cleared the extra money generated was not spent, but saved with other surplus funds which he tried to give back to the taxpayer in the form of major tax cuts (state income tax cuts and others).

All that indicates a bias in the reporting that gives the reader a skewed perspective. It comes in the form of ignoring important facts that reflect more positively while negatively reporting less significant facts, often with exaggerations or fabrications.

INSIGHT:

In fact, in all the "reporting" or criticism of Governor Romney's fee hikes by different organizations and websites, including several "news" or "think tank" type organizations, it is rarely reported that his tax/fee adjustments were revenue neutral, or in other words, that he cut taxes by amounts larger than the amounts of the fee hikes. It is also rarely noted that he also attempted additional tax and fee cuts of far larger amounts and in more places than the democrat legislature permitted. The fact is usually ignored that he erased billions in deficit while fee increases amounted to hundreds of millions-- only a fraction of the multi-billion dollar gap he closed in his first year, and which was followed by both his successful and attempted tax cuts.

The next section gives an overview of the fee hikes:


GETTING THE FACTS (TOTAL FEES INCREASED)

WHAT WAS DONE: (Fee hikes)

“Here's the approximate numbers:

“$240 million -- Romney's fee hikes on targeted services like highway billboards, multiple copies of driver's licenses, bar exams, etc

“$260 million -- Fee hikes that were passed prior to Romney's first year in office, yet did not take effect until Romney was in office

“$150 million -- Romney closed corporate tax loopholes

“Add all three up, and there's your $650 million, which usually gets rounded to $700 million. Of course, Romney's contribution is only $400 million. Closing the corporate tax loopholes are simply enforcing existing tax code as it was intended...to call this a tax hike is like calling it a sentencing when you send an escaped convict back to prison. See, numerous banks that did some real estate as part of their business were claiming to be "real estate lenders" as their primary business and were thereby qualifying for a major tax shelter. Romney knew this was a false claim and called them to task on it. Simple enforcement.

“The $240 million of fee hikes that Romney approved were more than offset by various TAX CUTS he implemented...in other words, better than a "revenue neutral" shift of taxes to service fees, which any conservative should like. The service fees were generally in line with national and local inflationary trends, as well as making the prices more reflective of the actual costs. Fees generally make accounting in government more transparent, as you can see where the money is going...and there's really no good reason to subsidize a service cost below its market value anyway.

“Here's the link for Romney's tax cuts, the biggest of which was his reversal of the $250 million retroactive capital gains tax in 2005.”


WHAT WAS SAID: (Fee hikes)

“Fees and taxes have increased more than $700 million a year under Governor Mitt Romney and Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, a leading budget specialist said yesterday. Michael J. Widmer — president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, which closely tracks state finances — said the state has raised roughly $740 million to $750 million per year by increasing fees and corporate taxes gained from what the Romney administration describes as ‘closing loopholes.’ ”


INSIGHT:

Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation is a business lobby with its own agenda:

“Gov. Mitt Romney on Monday called on the Legislature to lower the income tax rate to 5 percent and to embrace a series of new Corner Office spending proposals....

“But Michael J. Widmer of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-funded nonprofit agency that monitors taxes and government spending, said ..."There's no indication that we can afford a tax cut and work our way out of the structural deficit and meet our legal and moral obligations," ...

“And how complete would the usual Gimme Lobby eruptions be without inclusion of the so-called Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation? The State House News Service yesterday reported MTF's position on a tax cut for average taxpayers:

“Michael Widmer, president of the business-backed Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, said the state should restore spending cuts from the last few years, and reduce the structural budget deficit before looking to cut taxes.... "Until we're out of the fiscal woods, which may be another 24 months, we should be focusing on eliminating the structural deficit and restoring programs," Widmer said.

“ "Structural deficit" is the same dodge Mickey's been using for over a decade, enabling the Gimme Lobby to dig the state into a deeper and deeper financial hole. The structural deficit has just kept growing, along with state spending, despite Widmer's years of half-hearted and generally ignored recommendations.

“Widmer, a former Dukakis administration hack, is either too dumb to realize that the only time he's listened to is when he objects to tax cuts for ordinary taxpayers and the tax-and-spend crowd needs an authoritative voice, else is complicit in the tax-and-spend agenda. Either way, he and MTF have consistently enabled and encouraged the state's fiscal instability under the self-promoted guise of responsible state policy.

“At least, after many years of struggling to expose the so-called Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation for the shill it has always been, MTF is no longer preceded by "highly-respected" or "nonpartisan" every time Widmer is trotted out and quoted as something akin to a fiscal oracle. Today MTF is routinely and more accurately described as "business-backed," or "a business-funded nonprofit agency that monitors taxes and government spending" as described today by Boston Globe reporter Scott Greenberger. (Now if only we can get across how erroneous and unreliable MTF's prognostications have been over the years!)”

“Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, supports the drive to hike the gas tax even higher than [Democrat] Gov. Deval Patrick’s 19-cents-a-gallon proposal. Widmer rakes in $375,000 a year in salary, $19,000 in benefits and deferred compensation and was paid $2,837 for expenses, according to 2007 IRS filings. Widmer said his compensation includes a car allowance and reimbursement for fuel expenses.”

“Senator Richard R. Tisei, the Republican leader from Wakefield, echoed Baddour's earlier comments that many supporters of a gas tax increase were "elites," ...

“A higher gas tax might also reduce the pressure on lawmakers to raise corporate taxes - which some of the groups have sought to reduce or hold steady....

“Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, said he worries that a compromise on a lower figure could leave lawmakers taking a tough political vote ...

“By starting with a higher number, advocacy organizations may be hoping to shift the debate so that any compromise figure will be closer to Patrick's number.”


Nearly 100 articles showing MTF is a tax the individual business lobby:

“Calling Michael Widmer’s MTF a 'taxpayer organization' is like calling a pride of lions 'gazelle rights advocates.'” - Michael Graham, The Boston Herald, Apr. 28, 2009

“MTF opposes Gov. Cellucci's initiative to reduce the state income tax rate, income tax credit for tolls and auto excise taxes” - Jan 18, 2000

“MTF sets the stage for tax increase, more spending” - Jan 23, 2002

“MTF finally outed as shill for "corporate elite" ” - Feb 22, 2002

“MTF: wrong again, backpeddling, ... Tracking the track record of the so-called Mass. Taxpayers Foundation” - Mar 7, 2002

“MTF pushes sales tax hike on average taxpayers, exempts its Fat Cat members” - Feb 17, 2003

...


Michael Widmer is a democrat operative who criticized/denied whatever Romney did, and praised whatever the democrats did:

“Fehrnstrom said it is disingenuous for Patrick to believe a budget gap exists for next fiscal year but that he can restore more than $380 million [in spending that Romney cut] ...

“Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, said [Democrat Governor] Patrick is on target...

“Widmer said his position as an unpaid adviser to the incoming Patrick administration did not influence his take on the state's finances.”

“Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, supports the drive to hike the gas tax even higher than Gov. Deval Patrick’s 19-cents-a-gallon proposal. Widmer rakes in $375,000 a year in salary, $19,000 in benefits and deferred compensation and was paid $2,837 for expenses, according to 2007 IRS filings. Widmer said his compensation includes a car allowance and reimbursement for fuel expenses.”

“Senator Richard R. Tisei, the Republican leader from Wakefield, echoed Baddour's earlier comments that many supporters of a gas tax increase were "elites," ...

“A higher gas tax might also reduce the pressure on lawmakers to raise corporate taxes - which some of the groups have sought to reduce or hold steady....

“Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, said he worries that a compromise on a lower figure could leave lawmakers taking a tough political vote ...

“By starting with a higher number, advocacy organizations may be hoping to shift the debate so that any compromise figure will be closer to Patrick's number.”

Widmer defends democrat governor against republican challenger:

“Michael J. Widmer, executive director of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Association, a Boston-based business group, said that starting in January [2010] employers will see an increase of 30 to 40 percent in their unemployment insurance taxes, which are already among the highest rates in the country...

“Facing a bruising re-election year, Gov. Deval Patrick filed a politically tough $28.2 billion budget that slashes human services, boosts taxes on candy, soda and smokeless tobacco products but holds local aid harmless...

“Patrick defended his budget from early attacks by Republican gubernatorial rival Charlie Baker, who slammed the governor for using too much in rainy day funds and accused Patrick of letting the budget, “get away from him.” ...

“Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, said the budget is savvy because it doesn’t touch local aid in what looks to be a competitive election year.”

Widmer attacks republican challenger:

“ "When Charlie was head of A&F [Administration and Finance under Bill Weld who was governor from 1991-7], the state borrowed against future federal highway aid. We're paying for that now," said Michael Widmer, who heads the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation and supports a 25-cents-per-gallon gas tax hike.

“If Baker runs for governor, Widmer said, it is fair to ask, "How much of what happened on his watch is what we're having to pay for now?" ...

“Outgoing Governor Michael Dukakis, a Democrat, raised taxes ... An angry public rebelled by voting Republican...

“ "The tax increases [by Dukakis] saved what would have been massive budget cuts on his watch," said Widmer.”

But 16 years before, Widmer said what he really thought:

“ "Bill Weld deserves enormous credit for balancing a budget during a raging recession without resorting to tax increases," says Michael Widmer of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a nonpartisan business-backed research group.”

Widmer supports democrat budget that raises taxes, spends rainy-day funds:

“The budget relies in part on an estimated $174 million from a new $1 per pack cigarette tax increase and $285 million in new revenues from closing so-called corporate tax "loopholes."

“Patrick said he wants... to help replenish some of the $401 million drawn out of the [rainy day savings] account to balance the 2009 budget. ...

“Patrick is asking lawmakers for changes to require employers, insurers and health care providers to kick in an additional $130 million ...

“ "It's a good first step, but it's highly likely that the governor is going to need to ... make cuts later this year to avoid draining all of the state's cash reserve funds," said foundation president Michael Widmer...

“Michael Widmer, who ran the communications shop under the last Democratic governor, said the numbers didn't strike him as something out of the ordinary from past administrations, including that of Michael Dukakis.”

“ "Limits on tax rate hikes?" asked the biggest front page headline of Jan. 13, 1977...

“ "It's an infinitely complicated issue," said Michael Widmer, then Dukakis' communications chief and now president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

“Limits on property tax increases had to wait ... until Dukakis lost the Democratic primary in 1978 to Edward King, who went on to win election as governor and to show less fear of complexities than Dukakis.”

    “Michael Widmer, a close aide at the time, said Mr. Dukakis seemed ''very vulnerable'' in those days and was clearly doing a lot of soul-searching. Some of it was about policies, Mr. Widmer said, adding, ''And a lot of the soul-searching was about himself, personally, because in the wake of the defeat, a lot of the reporting talked about this being a slap at him personally.'' Mr. Dukakis once asked him if he was really as cool and aloof as the news accounts portrayed him to be, Mr. Widmer recalled.”

    “Some political observers are expecting a public tax battle the likes of which has not been seen since Governor Michael S. Dukakis was in office.

    “ "I think back to what happened in ‘89 or ‘90. I think this would be even more contentious and chaotic than that period," said Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, recalling the voter effort to overturn new taxes imposed under Dukakis.”

Widmer denies any Romney achievement:

“Michael Widmer Of The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation: "No Romney reform has saved any meaningful money. It’s all on the margins." ”

But before Romney took office, Widmer indicated draconian cuts, tax raises and borrowing would all be needed even if the economy improved:

“The state budget crisis could continue to deepen even as Massachusetts and the rest of the country pull themselves out of recession, says Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation...

“Even if the economy recovers, the state might have to make draconian budget cuts for the fiscal year ending in June 2004, undo tax law changes of the 1990s and float bonds to cover the deficit, he said...

“ "How are we going to avoid using the reserve?" [Cahill] asked

“Widmer agreed that it is inevitable...”

The economy got worst, Romney cut costs (but didn't raise taxes or borrow), and Widmer continued to deny Romney achievements:

“Faced with a $3 billion deficit and having pledged not to raise taxes, Romney slashed social programs, the higher-education budget, and local aid to cities and towns. Although he boasts that the state ran a $700 million budget surplus in 2004, Michael Widmer, the head of the nonpartisan Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, points out that the number does not reflect a true structural [i.e.- one that will occur every year] surplus—only the fact that revenues came in higher last year than the conservative targets the Romney administration and the legislature had set.”

Widmer continued to dismiss the achievement of Romney's surpluses:

“Of Romney's assertion about the 2005 surplus, ''There never was a $1 billion surplus,'' said Michael J. Widmer, president of the business-funded Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.”

But others continue to assert the facts of the surpluses:

“When I left state government in 1998, state government had a $3 billion fund balance, including more than $1 billion in its Rainy Day Fund. [Which then was mostly depleted before Romney took office - cltg.org] When Governor Mitt Romney left office in 2006 – eight years later – the state’s total fund balance had almost doubled [from 1998], and the state had $2.2 billion in the Rainy Day Fund. In two years, Governor Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray grew spending by almost 20 percent, spent $800 million more than they took in, and cashed out over $700 million in Rainy Day Fund monies – BEFORE the economy crashed.” - Charlie Baker

Widmer continued to praise democrat guv who used up surpluses:

“The budget includes a host of new tax increases, including a 25 percent hike in the sales tax to generate about $633 million...

“The state's "rainy day" fund recently held $2.3 billion. But drawing down those reserves to cover the FY 2009 shortfall will leave only about $775 million...

“ "We're going to find ourselves by end of fiscal 2010 having run through most of the federal stimulus money and reserves," Widmer said.”

“Governor Deval Patrick is fighting to protect services for a politically controversial segment of the Bay State population: immigrants.

“With state revenues in free fall, lawmakers cut health insurance coverage for some 30,000 noncitizens. Now, Patrick wants to restore it ...

“What Patrick is trying to do is “the right thing,’’ said Widmer.”

Romney proposes budget that is $3B less than requested, Widmer says it will never work:

“Next year's budget crisis will be the worst since the Depression, incoming Administration and Finance Secretary Eric Kriss said yesterday, ...

“Kriss said the state's budget deficit next year will probably be even larger than the $2 billion predicted by the most pessimistic assessments...

“ "We face the most difficult year in state fiscal history since the 1930s," said Kriss, who was an assistant administration and finance secretary under Governor William F. Weld. "I say this as someone who had to grapple with the last major crisis of 1991-1992. We are in worse shape, in my judgment, than a decade ago. In some areas, much worse."

“Named by Governor-elect Mitt Romney on Tuesday, Kriss, speaking to members of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, gave the incoming administration's first policy statement since Romney was elected Nov. 5...

“ "We will now turn our energy toward closing the gap not through gimmicks, but by fundamentally reshaping state government," Kriss said. "The most serious fiscal crisis in 60 years deserves the most far-reaching reforms in 60 years." ...

“Based on Kriss's revenue projections, Romney's 2004 budget is likely to call for spending between $21.5 billion and $22.5 billion. That's well short of the $25.3 billion requested by state agencies to continue doing business...

“ "Having a reform agenda makes all the sense in the world, but it's not realistic to assume that will address the current fiscal crisis in a meaningful way," said Michael J. Widmer president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a nonpartisan watchdog group. "It would be a huge achievement to squeeze out $500 million over a full term from reorganization, but it will take a full term."

“Widmer estimates that consolidating the Highway Department and the Turnpike Authority would save between $10 million and $20 million, and that reorganizing human services would yield $100 million at most over four years.”

Widmer claims budgets balanced not because Romney implemented smaller budgets but because economy naturally recovered as soon as Romney got in office:

“Early in his administration, Romney contended that he squeezed more than $1 billion in waste out of the budget. ''I said at the time it was no more than $100 million in waste he eliminated through reforms, and I was being very generous,'' Widmer said. ''Reform had next to nothing to do with the change in the state's financial picture.''

“Fehrnstrom replied that there were many internal efficiencies that produced savings. ''We wanted people to get more efficient, so we cut budgets,'' he said.”

Widmer then claims economy never recovered under Romney:

“As for Romney, the taxpayer group has been critical of his claims that he turned around the state's economy — "there's been no turnaround," Widmer said.”

Romney proposes cost-savings to be passed onto citizens, Widmer calls it irresponsible:

“The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority board gave tentative approval Wednesday to eliminating all tolls on the roadway west of Route 128, both as a cost-saving measure and to satisfy drivers who have complained the state should have eliminated them years ago...

“The proposal does not need legislative approval, Gov. Mitt Romney said...

“ "The western drivers of Massachusetts have been ripped off, and it just doesn't make sense to keep that going on in the future," the governor said at a Statehouse news conference less than two hours after the board vote. "The people in western Mass. and central Mass. ought to have the same deal as the rest of the state."

“Most of the remaining 3,000 miles of highway in Massachusetts do not have tolls, including major commuting routes ...

“"It's an utterly irresponsible proposal," said Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a frequent opponent of tax-cut proposals...

“Drivers in central and western Massachusetts have long sought to eliminate Turnpike tolls. In 1952, when the authority was established, the law said the tolls would be removed when the bonds used to finance the construction were paid. The original bonds, totaling $510 million, were retired in 1983.

“The proposal to eliminate tolls was drafted by Eric Kriss, the state's former finance secretary. He has been heading a panel reviewing Turnpike finances since Romney took control of the agency in mid-August following the ouster of Chairman Matthew Amorello. He resigned in the aftermath of a fatal Big Dig tunnel collapse in July.

“Kriss found that nearly a third of what is collected at toll booths is needed to pay for the actual manual collection of the tolls.

“Kriss said lost toll receipts would be offset by laying off about 200 Turnpike toll collectors, as well as by shifting administrative and maintenance responsibilities for that portion of the 138-mile roadway to the state Highway Department.”

“The report by Kriss estimates the move to eliminate the western tolls and dismantle the Turnpike would cost mere millions up front and save between $68 million and $105 million a year through 2011. Annual toll revenue loss is estimated at $114 million...

“ "This is a major step in the wrong direction," said Commissioner Michael Widmer of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.”

“Current toll revenues at the Turnpike are $334m... Against this year's $334m the Turnpike is incurring expenses of $270m for an operating income of only $64m. The task force projects expenses as rising steadily with rising health insurance costs a major factor while toll revenue grows a feeble 1.5%/yr and an operating deficit occurs in 2008...

“Michael Widmer, president of a state Taxpayers Foundation and a member of the governor's Transportation Finance Commission yesterday deplored the proposal to end tolls calling it the sacrifice of an important revenue stream...

“The Turnpike Authority is a mess, with an expensive cost structure and no ability to sustain itself except through higher and higher toll increases in perpetuity. This is not fair to the residents who live west of Boston and are bearing a disproportionate share of the cost of the Big Dig," Romney said. "It's time we start to dismantle this highly inefficient system." ...

“Driving the decision are two main factors: 1) the inefficiency of toll collection, where the revenue collected is not justified by the high costs, and 2) the unfairness of asking western Turnpike toll payers to subsidize the eastern portion, the so-called 'Metropolitan Highway System' that consists of the Central Artery, the airport tunnels and the Boston Extension.”