Mitt Romney on Tax Reform

Former Republican Governor (MA)

Tax rate flatter & simpler but still progressive for now

Q: You don't have a flat tax. You're proposing to preserve the Bush-era tax rates. What is wrong with the idea that we should go to one rate? Why do you believe in a progressive tax system?

ROMNEY: Well, I would like to see our tax rates flatter. I'd like to see our code simpler. I'd like to see the special breaks that we have in the code taken out. That's one of the reasons why I take the corporate rate from 35% down to 25%, is to take out some of the special deals. What I want to do is to take our precious dollars & focus them on the people in this country that have been hurt the most, and that's the middle class. The Obama economy has really crushed middle-income Americans. So what I do is focus a substantial tax break on middle-income Americans. Ultimately, I'd love to see us come up with a plan that simplifies the code and lowers rates for everybody. But right now, let's get the job done first that has to be done immediately. Let's lower the tax rates on middle-income Americans.

Source: 2011 CNBC GOP Primary debate in Rochester MI , Nov 9, 2011

I don't want to raise taxes in the middle of a recession

GINGRICH: [to Romney]: No president of the United States should ever again say because of some political fight in Washington, I may not be able to send you your check. That money is available.

Q: Speaker Gingrich just said he is not prepared to raise taxes on the American people in the middle of a slow economy like this. That's what would happen if the payroll tax cut is not extended. Do you agree with him?

ROMNEY: I don't want to raise taxes on people in the middle of a recession. Of course not.

Q: So you're for it?

ROMNEY: And that's one of the reasons why we fought so hard to make sure the Bush tax cuts weren't taken away by President Obama.

Q: But to clarify, you agree with Pres. Obama the payroll tax cut should be expanded?

ROMNEY: I want to keep our taxes down. I don't want to raise any taxes anywhere. Let me tell you, I'm not looking to raise taxes. What I'm looking to do is to cut spending.

Source: 2011 CNBC GOP Primary debate in Rochester MI , Nov 9, 2011

Rich are doing fine; Poor have safety net; Middle needs help

GINGRICH: [to Romney]: On about page 47 of your plan you have a capital-gains tax cut for people under $200,000. So I'm curious: What was the rationale for setting an even lower base mark than Obama's $250,000?

ROMNEY: Well, the reason for giving a tax break to middle-income Americans is that middle-income Americans have been the people who have been most hurt by the Obama economy. People are having a hard time making ends meet. And so if I'm going to use precious dollars to reduce taxes, I want to focus it on where the people are hurting the most, and that's the middle class. I'm not worried about rich people; they're doing just fine. The very poor have a safety net; they're taken care of. But the people in the middle, the hard-working Americans, are the people who need a break, and that's why I focus my tax cut right there.

Source: 2011 GOP debate at Dartmouth College, NH , Oct 11, 2011

$200,000 income threshold for no interest & dividend tax

Q: A Wall Street Journal editorial recently called your 59-point economic plan "surprisingly timid & tactical considering our economic predicament." Specifically, they had a problem with you picking the $200,000 income threshold for eliminating interest, dividends, and capital gains taxes, writing that you were afraid of "class warfare rhetoric."

ROMNEY: What you have to do is make America the most attractive place in the world for business, and that means our corporate tax rates have to be competitive #2: government and regulators have to be allies of business, not foes.#3: we've got to become energy secure in this country. #4: we have to have trade policies that work for us, and crack down on cheaters like China. And my list goes on in my 59 points. I know there are some that say, look, we should lower taxes for the very highest-income people. My view is very simple: The people that have been hurt most by the Obama economy, has been the middle class. That's why I cut taxes for the middle class.

Source: 2011 GOP Google debate in Orlando FL , Sep 22, 2011

FairTax is structured poorly against the middle class

Q: Do you support the FairTax?

ROMNEY: The idea of a national sales tax or a consumption tax has a lot to go for it. One, it would make us more competitive globally, as we send products around the world, because under the provisions of the World Trade Organization, you can reimburse that to an exporter. We can't reimburse our taxes right now. It also would level the playing field in the country, making sure everybody is paying some part of their fair share. But the way the fair tax has been structured it has a real problem and that is it lowers the burden on the very highest income folks and the very lowest and raises it on middle income people. And the people who have been hurt most by the economy are the middle class. And so my plan is for middle income Americans, no tax on interest, dividends or capital gains. Let people save their money as the way they think is best. We're taxing too much, we're spending too much and middle income Americans need a break and I'll give it to them.

Source: 2011 GOP Tea Party debate in Tampa FL , Sep 12, 2011

I cut taxes 19 times as MA governor

Q: In 2005, when you were the governor of Massachusetts, you successfully appealed to Standard & Poor's to upgrade your state's credit rating. You said you used a combination of spending cuts and new revenues to put Massachusetts on a more sound financia footing. You even approvingly cited a tax increase passed by the Democratic state legislature. Doesn't this show that sometimes raising taxes is necessary?

A: No. I don't believe in raising taxes. And as governor I cut taxes 19 times and didn't raise taxes. Let's step back and talk about the first part what you said. I was fortunate enough to be a governor that got an increase in the credit rating in my state. Republicans and Democrats worked together in Massachusetts to cut spending. I came in, we had a huge deficit. We cut spending. Every single year I was governor we balanced the budget. That kind of leadership is what allowed us to get a credit upgrade from Standard & Poor's. And that's the leadership we finally need in the White House.

Source: Iowa Straw Poll 2011 GOP debate in Ames Iowa , Aug 11, 2011

Eliminate taxes on dividends & interest but not via FairTax

If we want to make more capital available for investment, we will have to lower taxes on saving and investing, either at the corporate or the individual level, or preferably both. A lower corporate tax rate would accomplish all that the myriad special tax breaks do, and improve the incentives for investment and entrepreneurship as well. Personal taxes on dividends, interest, and capital gains for all middle-income families should be completely eliminated.

Some people advocate the "FairTax" as a means of boosting savings, a system that would entirely replace income taxes with a consumption tax--a kind of sales tax. FairTax proponents estimate that a tax rate of 23% would be sufficient, but detractors claim that it would be closer to 40%. The enormous amount saved by the wealthiest under the FairTax would be made up by a higher tax burden on the middle class. This is not an outcome that will or should gain traction with the American public.

Source: No Apology, by Mitt Romney, p.129-130 , Mar 2, 2010

Raised service fees like highway ads, from $200 to $2,000

McCAIN: Gov. Romney raised taxes by $730 million. He called them “fees.” I’m sure the people that had to pay it, whether they called them bananas, they still had to pay $730 million extra.

ROMNEY: We raised fees $240 million. Not $730 million. Facts are stubborn things. We audited our fee increase, because, of course, we cared. Now, why did we raise fees $240 million? We had a $3 billion budget shortfall, we decided we were not going to raise taxes, and we found that some fees hadn’t been raised in as many as 20 years. These were not broad-based fees for things like getting your driver’s license or your license plate for your car, but instead something like the cost of a sign on the interstate and how much it was going to cost to publish a McDonald’s or a Burger King sign on the interstate. We went from, like, $200 a sign to $2,000 a sign to raise money for our state in a way that was consistent with the what the market had done over the ensuing years.

Source: 2008 Republican debate at Reagan Library in Simi Valley , Jan 30, 2008

Fees are appropriate for the government to provide services

Q: As governor of Massachusetts, you raised hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue through so-called fees and loophole closings. You passed a health care bill forcing individuals to buy insurance on the threat of a fine. How do you reconcile that policy with your claim to be the authentic conservative?

A: I mentioned fees, and it’s appropriate if the state is providing a service to someone that’s not a requirement to have a car or a driver’s license, but instead, let’s say, we’re going to be taking out an oil tank from your back yard because it’s leaking into the ground and the state’s going to provide that service. But to charge a fee sufficient to do so makes a lot of sense. So the fees ought to be adjusted from time to time to compose the amount of what the cost is of providing that service. If there hasn’t been a fee raised in a couple of decades, you probably have some inflation in there you ought to adjust for.

Source: 2008 Republican debate at Reagan Library in Simi Valley , Jan 30, 2008

I support the Bush tax cuts

I support the Bush tax cuts. The Bush tax cuts helped get our economy going again when we faced the last tough times. That’s why right now, as we face tough times, we need to have somebody who understands, has the private sector, the business world, the economy in their DNA. I do. I spent my life in the private sector. I know how jobs come & how they go, and I’ll make sure that we create more good jobs for this nation. One way to do that is by holding down taxes & making those tax cuts permanent.
Source: 2008 GOP debate in Boca Raton Florida , Jan 24, 2008

Avoid recession with immediate middle-income tax cuts

Q: What would be your immediate first step that you would take regarding fears of a recession & some sort of economic stimulus package?

A: Well, immediately I’d go to try and get a reduction on taxes on middle income Americans. Specifically I proposed having people who earn under $200,000 a year be allowed to save their money tax-free. It means no tax on interest, dividends or capital gains. It keeps more money in their pockets. It also means that we have more capital going into the marketplace available for business startups as well as for homes.

Q: So for families earning under $200,000 a year, you’d recommend some sort of immediate tax cut, is that right?

A: That’s exactly right. This is middle-income Americans. These are where 95% of Americans live, and get their tax rates down, allow them to save for the future, allow them to make investments in their homes be able to save for college. The best thing we can do is keep money in the homes of the American people.

Source: CNN Late Edition: 2008 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer , Jan 13, 2008

Raised $240M in MA fees, but only covering cost of services

Q: In your first year as governor you raised fees on individuals and corporations by more than $500 million. Would you explain why your record on taxes is better than your competitors?

ROMNEY: First of all, we raised fees by $240 million in our state because we had a whole series of fees that hadn’t been raised, in some cases, in decades, so we brought them up to the cost of providing services. These were not broad-based fees that were required for all people to pay, rather for specialized services.

Source: 2008 Fox News NH Republican primary debate , Jan 6, 2008

Zero tax rate on capital gains, for incomes up to $200,000

I believe it’s critical for our economy going forward that we lower taxes for the middle class. And so I’ve proposed a special savings plan for people in middle incomes: Any interest income, or dividend income, or capital gains earned by people earning less than $200,000 a year should be taxed at the new rate of zero. Let people save their money for whatever purpose they’d like to save. I believe that will help stimulate our economy, and make it easier for middle-income folks to make ends meet.
Source: 2008 Fox News NH Republican primary debate , Jan 6, 2008

Lowering taxes, like Bush tax cuts, grows the economy

Q: Would you explain why your record on taxes is better than your competitors?

ROMNEY: Lowering taxes grows the economy. Lowering taxes helps build jobs & helps working families, and so I strongly have been of the view that one of the great lessons for Ronald Reagan was that lowering taxes helped built our economy. Sen. McCain was one of two Republicans who voted against the Bush tax cuts. I believe the Bush tax cuts helped our economy grow and are one of the reasons that we’re not in a recession today Senator McCain continues to believe that that was the right vote to take, and I respect that that’s his view. I just happen to disagree with it. As governor, I fought tirelessly to reduce taxes. We cut taxes some 19 times in our state, and we held down s

Source: 2008 Fox News NH Republican primary debate , Jan 6, 2008

FactCheck: Never opposed 2003 Bush cuts, but never supported

Romney & Huckabee feuded over Romney’s position on Pres. Bush’s tax cuts. Romney claims to have been a supporter of the cuts all along:

HUCKABEE: Did you support or oppose the 2002 Bush tax cuts?

ROMNEY: I have never opposed the Bush 2002 tax cuts. I supported them. The first comment I made about the Bush tax cuts was that I supported the Bush tax cuts.

Huckabee is referring to the 2003 cuts, which occurred right at the beginning of Romney’s term as governor. Romney is correct to say that he neve publicly opposed Bush’s tax cuts. But while he may have supported them, we find no record of his doing so in public. Indeed, Romney rather pointedly refused to endorse the Bush tax cuts in 2003. The Boston Globe cited Romney telling the state’s congressional delegation that he “won’t be a cheerleader” for tax cuts that he doesn’t agree with. According to this account, Romney added that he wouldn’t oppose Bush’s cuts either, because he “has to keep a solid relationship with the White House.”

Source: FactCheck.org on 2008 Fox News NH Republican primary debate , Jan 6, 2008

Reduce the tax burden on middle-income families

I don’t stay awake at night worrying about the taxes that rich people are paying. I’m concerned about the taxes that middle class families are paying. They’re under a lot of pressure. Gasoline’s expensive. Home heating oil, particularly in the Northeast, is very difficult for folks. Health care costs are going through the roof. Education costs and higher education are overwhelming. And as a result, we need to reduce the burden on middle-income families in this country.
Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Republican Debate , Dec 12, 2007

Signed no-tax pledge; Dems pledge to raise taxes

Q: What about the Americans for Tax Reform pledge to oppose any increase in marginal tax rates? You like to say that you don’t just talk about pledges, that, in fact, you actually had to operate one as governor of Massachusetts. But in your first year as governor, you raised fees and fines by $500 million, including fees paid by the blind, by gun owners, by those seeking training against domestic violence, and even by used car shoppers.

A: The total fees raised were $260 million, which is a big number. We had a $3 billion budget gap. The Democrats wanted to raise taxes. I said, “No way.” And in fact we did not raise taxes on our citizens, and we lowered them across that state time and again. I’m proud of what we were able to do to lower taxes. I’m also going to lower taxes for the American people, and that’s the key thing. Right now, you can listen to the Democrats. Their pledge is clear. They’re going to raise taxes. I want to lower them.

Source: 2007 GOP debate at UNH, sponsored by Fox News , Sep 5, 2007

Death tax just doesn’t make sense

Source: The Man, His Values, & His Vision, p.115 , Aug 31, 2007

Commission studied FairTax and found serious flaws

Q: The FairTax would eliminate the income tax, estate tax, payroll tax and capital gains tax and replace it with a 23% sales tax. Do you support it?

A: It’s good, but it’s not that good. There are a lot of features that are very attractive about a FairTax. Getting rid of the IRS is something we’d all love. But the truth is, we’re going to have to pay taxes. Completely throwing out our tax system and coming up with an entirely new one is something we have to do very, very carefully. The president’s commission on tax reform looked at this and said: Not a good idea. Some of the reasons are the FairTax, for instance, charges a 23% tax, plus state sales tax, on a new home, when you purchase a new home. But if you buy an old home, there’s no tax. Think what that might do to the construction industry. We need to thoroughly take it apart before we make a change of that nature. That’s why my view is, get rid of the tax on savings and let middle-income people save their money tax-free

Source: 2007 GOP Iowa Straw Poll debate , Aug 5, 2007

Pledges no new taxes in 2007 after refusing pledge in 2002

Q: Your critics have called you “flip-flop Mitt” for your decision to take the “no new taxes” pledge this year after refusing to do so in 2002.

A: I want to make it very clear that I’m not going to raise taxes. As governor of Massachusetts, I made it very clear there, and I did not raise taxes. We faced a huge budget gap, but I recognize that raising taxes could lead to a slowdown in our economy, so we didn’t do it. We balanced our budget, and that’s exactly what I’ll do with the federal government.

Source: 2007 Republican Debate in South Carolina , May 15, 2007

FactCheck: Did not raise MA taxes, but DID raise MA fees

Mitt Romney said he “did not raise taxes” when he was governor of Massachusetts. Technically, that is true, but it’s also misleading. Romney did not raise anything called a tax during his tenure as governor, but he did increase state revenues by raising various types of fees. In 2003, Romney doubled fees for court filings (which include marriage licensing fees), professional registrations and firearm licenses. 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). All told, the fees raised more than $400 million in their first year. Romney also “closed loopholes” in the corporate tax structure, a move that generated another $150 million in increased revenue. In addition, Romney cut local aid, a program whereby the state supplied revenue to cities and counties. In 2004, Romney cut nearly 5 percent, or about $230 million, from the local aid budget.
Source: FactCheck.org on 2007 Republican Debate in South Carolina , May 15, 2007

End taxes on interests, dividends & capital gains

Q: In addition to the Bush tax cut, name a tax you’d like to cut.

A: I like middle-income Americans to be able to save their money and not have to pay any tax at all on interests, dividends or capital gains. A zero rate on capital gains for middle-income Americans. And by the way, we’re all talking about how anxious we are to veto overspending. I was a governor. I’ve done it hundreds of times. I can’t wait to get my hands on Washington’s budget.

Source: 2007 GOP primary debate, at Reagan library, hosted by MSNBC , May 3, 2007

My pledge: no freeze on tax rollback

“All voters care about great education, improving our environment, bringing more jobs to Massachusetts and balancing the budget without raising taxes. That being the case, I think I have a very strong proposition to take to the voters of Massachusetts,” Romney said.

Calling it “my pledge,” Romney vowed not to support a freeze or reversal of the plan to roll income taxes back to 5 percent by next year even in the face of a budget hole nearing $3 billion. Romney chided Democrats for taking the “easy way” to fix problems by passing the tax hat.

“The easy way to fix any problem is to go to the people and say you have to pay more money, but that’s not what the job of management is,” Romney said. “That’s my pledge, we are not going to raise taxes, we are not going to walk away from what the voters are in favor of doing, which is bringing the tax rates down.”

Source: David Guarino, Boston Herald , Mar 22, 2002

Pledges not to raise taxes

The issues that people are talking about are taxes, crime and welfare. People want change on those issues and when it comes to the issues people line up with me. My job between now and eight o’clock Tuesday night is to keep reminding people of our differences on issues. I’m absolutely committed to not raising taxes. He has not been willing to take that pledge.
Source: Scot Lehigh, Peter Howe in Boston Globe , Nov 6, 1994

Other governors on Tax Reform: Mitt Romney on other issues:
MA Gubernatorial:
Deval Patrick
MA Senatorial:
John Kerry
Scott Brown

Newly seated 2010:
NJ Chris Christie
VA Bob McDonnell

Term-limited as of Jan. 2011:
AL Bob Riley
CA Arnold Schwarzenegger
GA Sonny Perdue
HI Linda Lingle
ME John Baldacci
MI Jennifer Granholm
NM Bill Richardson
OK Brad Henry
OR Ted Kulongoski
PA Ed Rendell
RI Donald Carcieri
SC Mark Sanford
SD Mike Rounds
TN Phil Bredesen
WY Dave Freudenthal
Newly Elected Nov. 2010:
AL: Robert Bentley (R)
CA: Jerry Brown (D)
CO: John Hickenlooper (D)
CT: Dan Malloy (D)
FL: Rick Scott (R)
GA: Nathan Deal (R)
HI: Neil Abercrombie (D)
IA: Terry Branstad (R)
KS: Sam Brownback (R)
ME: Paul LePage (R)
MI: Rick Snyder (R)
MN: Mark Dayton (D)
ND: Jack Dalrymple (R)
NM: Susana Martinez (R)
NV: Brian Sandoval (R)
NY: Andrew Cuomo (D)
OH: John Kasich (R)
OK: Mary Fallin (R)
PA: Tom Corbett (R)
RI: Lincoln Chafee (I)
SC: Nikki Haley (R)
SD: Dennis Daugaard (R)
TN: Bill Haslam (R)
VT: Peter Shumlin (D)
WI: Scott Walker (R)
WY: Matt Mead (R)
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Page last updated: Nov 23, 2011