Bill Weld on Tax Reform

Former Republican Governor; former Senate candidate (MA)


Cut taxes without abolishing the IRS

Q: You support the FairTax [a flat-rate consumption tax]?

JOHNSON: Imagine life in this country without the IRS. Greatly simplified. The more money you make, the more things you consume.

WELD: You know, I don't think you have to go so far as to abolishing the IRS. I think if you give the people the sense that taxes are only going to go down--they may not go down a lot, but they're not going to go up. And that's something both Gary and I did. He cut taxes 14 times, never raised them. I cut taxes 21 times, never raised them. The result was, in my case that when I took office, it was a recession, 1991. We had the highest unemployment rate of all 11 industrialized states. At the end of my first term, we had the lowest because businesses have the confidence to build that plant next door. So, you know, in terms of industrial policy, in my case, biotech, telecom, software: We grew those industries in Massachusetts by paying attention to them. And the same could happen at the federal level.

Source: 2016 CNN Libertarian Town Hall with Gary Johnson & Bill Weld , Jun 22, 2016

1990s: Produced nine tax cuts as governor of Tax-achussets

A pre-campaign strategy in 1995 found negatives for Weld in the Republican Party. Weld was pro-choice; pro-gay rights; a creature of the eastern establishment and its core institution, Harvard, where Weld had graduated and received his law degree; he had been born with a silver spoon and had money; and he was from Massachusetts, which most people would assume meant he must be a liberal. All 5 reinforced each other and all came back to Massachusetts. The most effective way to handle the negatives was to meet them head-on and convert them to Weld's advantage. This could be done by building a message around Weld as the leader who changed the political culture of Massachusetts almost single handily in 4 years. In the state known for high taxes (Tax-achusetts, as it was sometimes called) and liberal social engineering, he had produced 9 tax cuts and started sweeping welfare reform. Who better to change the Washington political culture?
Source: The Choice, by Bob Woodward, p.115 , Nov 1, 2005

Cut taxes 15 times as governor

As he did in previous debates, Weld reminded voters that in his six years as governor, he has cut taxes 15 times, created 250,000 new jobs and fought for welfare reform.

Kerry disputed Weld's claims and said Democrats were "the ones that created 10 million jobs." Kerry said, "The tax cuts [Weld] proposed went to business or the wealthy."

Weld urged voters to look at the overall records of each candidate. "I've cut taxes for six years in a row," said Weld. "I'm 6-for-6. [Kerry is] 0-for-12."

Source: Harvard Crimson on Kerry/Weld debates , Oct 29, 1996

My across-the-board tax cuts exceeded $1 billion

Other questions focused on tax policy, a long-standing source of disagreement between the candidates. Weld reminded voters of the 15 tax cuts he has signed as governor. "They aggregate more than a billion dollars," said Weld, who supports the across-the-board tax cuts proposed by Republican presidential candidate Robert J. Dole. "I don't see why the government should have it instead of you."

Kerry painted a markedly different picture of Weld's tax policy, saying his opponent has helped mostly large businesses and the rich. "Republican tax cuts go to wealthy people," Kerry said. "I want you to get the tax cuts."

Source: Harvard Crimson on Kerry/Weld debates , Oct 19, 1996

Roll back more than $2 billion in recent tax increases

To emphasize his determination to reduce spending drastically, Weld endorsed Question 3, a ballot initiative (ultimately unsuccessful) to roll back more than $2 billion in recent tax increases. Budgets, he declared in May 1990, ought to start each year "from scratch: You assume no program is necessary; no bureaucrat's job is necessary; no line item in the budget is necessary." He cheerfully told editorial boards he would "blow up" unneeded state agencies and cited robust privatization as the key to shrinking "the beast"--his term for state government. "If the private sector can run something better and cheaper, and it isn't a core function of government, I say: More power to them."

He was scathing in his indictment of the Democrats who ran the State Senate and House of Representatives. "The Legislature," he said, "has proven itself incapable of restructuring state government."

Source: Jeff Jacoby in City Journal , Jan 1, 1996

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Page last updated: Aug 22, 2016