Romney Used Fees to Close Budget Gap

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Romney's fee increases were driven by a desire to boost state revenues and there was no real analysis of the cost of the services being provided, Widmer said.

Romney, playing up his business management skills, has said he erased the state's budget gap primarily by cutting government waste and reducing nonessential state spending. But Widmer said Romney also relied heavily on boosting state revenues. Widmer said it's the only thing Romney or any other governor could have done in the face of such a budget deficit.

"I don't fault him for having a balanced approach," said Widmer. "But his portrayal of that, both then and now, doesn't reflect the full reality. There's a sense of fiscal wizardry and management reforms. The real picture is very different. There's no magic at work here."

Romney inherited a budget deficit of about $3 billion when he took office.

A spike in revenues in his first year in office helped cut that deficit nearly in half. The additional money came from a $1.1 billion package of tax increases approved by the Legislature the year before he took office.

Romney did not raise the state's income or sales taxes during his four-year term as governor. But he raised an additional $350 million to $375 million annually for three years by closing what his administration called business tax "loopholes," Widmer said.

Many businesses considered Romney's closing of such "loopholes" to be corporate tax increases.

"It was a great marketing strategy on the governor's part," said John Regan, executive vice president of government affairs for Associated Industries of Massachusetts, which represents 7,000 employers. "But these were mostly tax policy changes to increase revenues for the state."

The Romney camp says the loophole closings weren't tax increases, they were about tax enforcement. They "ensured that businesses and other entities in the Commonwealth did not evade the spirit of the law," Saul said.

EDITOR'S NOTE _ An occasional look behind the rhetoric of political candidates.

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