This is a rush transcript from "The Journal Editorial Report," March 24, 2007.
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," Mitt Romney up close. Can the one-term Massachusetts governor, turned Republican presidential candidate, successfully position himself as a true conservative in the race? We'll examine his record.
With polls showing many Republicans looking for other alternatives, is there room in the GOP field for a dark horse candidate.
Good news for thousands of students trapped in failing public schools. We have details after these headlines.
GIGOT: Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
As Mitt Romney transitions from one-term governor to presidential candidate, his economic achievements in Massachusetts are taking center stage, with his first television ad touting him as the Republican governor who turned around a democratic state.
One man familiar with his record in the Bay State is David Tuerck, economics chair and executive director of the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University. He joins me now from Boston.
David Tuerck, welcome to the program.
DAVID TUERCK, EXECUTIVE CHAIR, BEACON HILL INSTITUTE: Thank you, Paul.
GIGOT: You have watched the governor's record. What do you think is his single biggest accomplish in the Massachusetts that would recommend him to become a president?
TUERCK: Well, he did, in fact, hold the line on taxes in every significant sense. He gets at least an A-minus for that. And he did some reorganization of government, which helped make it work better here. Held the line on the growth of jobs.
But certainly his single biggest accomplishment is his health care reform package.
I would hasten to say there are many critics of that. And I have been among the critics. Yet, at the end of day, it was a very, very significant accomplishment, especially when they consider the political culture in which he brought it about.
GIGOT: Let's take those one at a time a time, particularly the fiscal record. He claims — the governor claims that he closed a $3 billion fiscal gap, budget deficit without raising taxes. So did he raise taxes to do that or not?
TUERCK: Well, he did. He raised some taxes in the form of closing corporate loopholes, as he called them. That's something like $295 million in new revenue. And then closed — raised fees, which raised, depending upon who you want to believe, somewhere between $260 million to $500 million in revenue. But this is small change in a state that collects $20 billion in taxes.
Most significantly, he kept the tax rate going up further. It had effectively been raised by the legislature before he took office. And he was able to keep the legislation from pushing it up higher. And there is a lot of pressure in the legislature and from various associations' places in the state, including ironically some big business forces, to push up the state tax rate. So he deserve as lot of credit for holding the line on that.
GIGOT: One of the criticisms of President Bush is that's he's not been unwilling to use his veto pen to reign in spending. Was Governor Romney willing to use his veto pen to do that in Massachusetts?
TUERCK: He most certainly was. He vetoed you hundreds of millions of dollars in spending. In many indications the vetoes were overridden, but that's understandable in light of the fact that the Democrats of a veto prove a majority in the state legislature, and the fact that many of the Republicans are disabled for supporting a veto registered by a Republican governor. He deserves credit on holding the line on taxes.
GIGOT: On health care, the former governor made a big deal of this last year standing next to Ted Kennedy at some point touting health care reform. How does that look a year later? Because there are a lot of complaints out of the state that the price of insurance has not gone down, and that the market for insurance has not been liberalize the way the governor thought or broadcast?