For Immediate Release
Monday, August 26, 2002 10 a.m.
Rebecca Moryl, Director of Operations

Beacon Hill Institute survey finds that most gubernatorial candidates would be more fiscally conservative than legislature.

Where do the candidates for governor stand on the subject of tax and fiscal policy? The answer is, “Well to the right of the Massachusetts legislature.”

The Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University has released the results of a questionnaire that it sent to every candidate earlier this year. BHI received responses from Democrats Shannon O'Brien, Robert Reich, Warren Tolman and Steve Grossman (who has since dropped out of the race), from Republican Mitt Romney and from Libertarian Carla Howell.

Democrat Tom Birmingham and Green Party candidate Jill Stein did not respond.

Among the respondents still in the race, there was agreement on how they would not raise taxes. On the subject of rolling back the income tax to 5.0%, as approved by the voters in 2000, all the respondents supported either implementing the rollback or temporarily freezing the rate at 5.3%.

Of the five respondents, four supported renewal of research and development tax credits for business, with the fifth respondent not answering. Four (with one respondent not answering) indicated that they favored tighter controls on state spending. Respondents were also given the opportunity to explain their positions.

In view of this year's round of legislated tax increases, it is important to note how candidates indicated they would not raise taxes.

• They would not decrease the personal exemption, as the legislature did this year.

• They would not rescind the deduction for charitable giving, also approved by the voters in 2000 and also rescinded by the legislature this year.

• They would not consider increasing the income tax to 5.6%, as some legislators are threatening to do next year.

• They would not weaken Proposition 2 1/2 (although one respondent did suggest studying the issue).

• They would not raise the sales tax, as some legislators wanted to do this year.

• And they would not raise the corporate income tax.

The candidates' responses to BHI's questions are summarized on the accompanying “BHI 2002 Gubernatorial Survey on Tax and Fiscal Policy.” Candidates' detailed responses are available at BHI's website

Taken together, the survey suggests that Massachusetts can expect to have a governor who will be more conservative than the legislature, at least when it comes to matters of tax and fiscal policy. The only questions on which a majority of respondents favored higher taxes related to tobacco and gasoline excise taxes. And three candidates (O'Brien, Reich and Tolman) favored higher gasoline excise taxes as a substitute for recent toll increases.

Of the respondents, the only candidate to break sharply from the pack is Libertarian Carla Howell, who would abolish the state income tax and put tight controls on state spending. Warren Tolman was the only Democratic candidate to support the voter-approved income tax rollback and charitable deduction.

Commenting on the survey, Frank Conte, BHI Director of Communications and Information Systems, said, “The purpose of the survey was to provide all candidates with an opportunity to spell out their tax and fiscal policy positions clearly and thoroughly in light of the budget crisis. While other issues tend to grab the spotlight in the course of a political campaign, taxpayers have a right to know how each candidate will approach tax policy and how that approach might differ from recent tax increases passed by the state legislature.

“Most of the gubernatorial candidates expressed a strong willingness to look beyond just raising taxes as a solution,” he added. “Moreover, it appears that all candidates have an eye toward keeping the state competitive in terms of tax policy.“



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