David Tuerk, executive director of the Boston-based Beacon Hill Institute, says Romney is also dodging his record on increasing taxes.
“[Romney] doesn’t talk about ‘closing the loopholes,’ but he raised about 290 million dollars a year in new taxes starting in 2003 to 2005,” Tuerck said. “That was an important exercise on his part, and the fact that he doesn’t talk about it does not reflect well on him.”
Tuerck does point out, however, that not all of the tax hikes are completely the fault of the former governor.
“[Romney] had a commissioner of revenue who was determined to close loopholes for as much on principle as for the purpose of raising revenue,” Tuerck said.
“One could argue that the better thing to have done was to do something about the state’s corporate income tax rate, which was then and still is one of the highest in the country,” Tuerck said. “After all, if we were having to close so many loopholes and we are losing so much revenue, it must be because firms want to report their income in other states where the tax rates are lower.”
Romney’s final record on economic growth and job creation has also come under fire.
“While Romney did pursue a few pro-growth policies,” Baldwin asserted, “he also initiated a host of tax and fee increases, bashed the Bush tax cuts, raised the minimum wage, engaged in pork spending [and] failed to pass any broad-based tax cuts, unlike his GOP predecessors.”
Tuerck says however, that to his credit, Romney attempted to get the personal state income tax rate lowered Tuerck explains that the voters passed a referendum in 2000 to cut the rate from 5.95 percent to 5 percent, a move that was later reversed by the Massachusetts Legislature.
“It’s much to his credit that he tried to get the Legislature, although unsuccessfully, to cut the rate back down to five percent,” Tuerck said.
Tuerck contends that on balance, Romney deserves neither the credit nor the blame for Massachusetts’ economy.
“The Massachusetts economy is generally strong. It was before he took office. It continued to be while he was in office, and it continues to today to be relatively strong compared to the rest of the country,” Tuerck said.
“Romney correctly points out that he had a low unemployment rate on his watch, and right now the state has a low unemployment rate compared to the rest of the country,” Tuerck said.
A Bureau of Labor Statistics chart of the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate shows that the unemployment rate for Massachusetts never went above six percent while Romney was governor.
Romney left office in January 2007. The Massachusetts rate stands at about 7 percent after a reaching a 2010 high of about 8.5 percent.
Tuerck says that the Massachusetts economy functions mostly outside the reach of the governor’s power: “I would say that Romney is not to be blamed for what can be seen as lackluster job creation, nor is he to be given credit for the continued strength of the state’s economy through his administration.”
“Nor is he to be given credit,” is putting it mildly according to Baldwin, who argues that Romney’s real record in Massachusetts is nothing on which the former governor should campaign.
“To be frank, Romney’s economic record was not as solid as he and many conservative leaders would like people to believe,” Baldwin said. “By the time he left office, he presided over an economy that, judged by any measure, such as job creation, was near the bottom of the country.