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The issue: Taxes and the economy
Healey is embracing a Republican strategy that has worked in every election since 1990: promising to "stand up to the tax-and-spend attitude of the Democratic Legislature."
She paints a rosier picture of the state's economy than her opponents. "Our administration found a $3 billion budget gap, and through sensible fiscal restraint made it a $1 billion budget surplus. An unemployment rate of 5.7 percent is down to 4.9, and our economy is back on track," she said in her campaign kick-off speech.
Healey favors an income tax rollback to 5 percent, as approved by voters in a 2000 referendum, although she and Gov. Mitt Romney have been unable to get the Legislature to approve it. She also believes municipalities need more revenue, and has pledged to increase local aid. "As governor, I will find every opportunity to reduce fees and hold down property taxes by giving a larger share of our state tax revenue to our cities and towns," she says. Her campaign manager, Tim O'Brien, pointed out that the Romney administration recently proposed a 17 percent increase in local aid.
Healey is developing a plan to allow towns to pool health insurance plans to drive down their spiraling insurance costs. She and the governor have proposed uncapping the lottery fund for the second year in a row. She has said she is against local-option taxes as a means of raising revenue for cities and towns, including the meals tax sought by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino.
Mihos calls himself a fiscal conservative, and is critical of the economic stewardship of the Romney administration, noting, as does Gabrieli, that Massachusetts ranks near the bottom of states in job creation. "I don't like where we seem to be heading," he told the Globe in February. "The state is not being managed, jobs are being lost, and there's an exodus of people from the Commonwealth. I'd like to stem that tide."
He supports an income tax rollback to 5 percent. "The tax burden is too much," he says. "We have to make it easier. The government is run by special interests, for special interests."
His legislative agenda, which he calls "Proposition 1" and vows to take to the people if as governor he can't get it approved on Beacon Hill, includes two economic proposals unique to the race for governor. He would set aside 40 percent of state revenue for local aid; and he would freeze property values for existing homeowners, reevaluating houses only when they are sold. That would bring "some type of certainty to a real estate tax bill and allow people to stay in their homes," he said.
He has proposed several changes to the Massachusetts tax code, including annually indexing deductions for inflation.
Mihos has a reputation for developing unique money-raising ideas. He has proposed selling the service plazas on the Massachusetts Turnpike to pay off bonds and take down the turnpike tolls. He even suggested that the Turnpike Authority sell commercial naming rights to the new Interstate 93 bridge over the Charles River, later named the Zakim-Bunker Hill bridge, claiming it could bring in $100 million from a bank or corporation eager to put its name on the span.
Patrick opposes a cut in the income tax rates to 5 percent, something the other candidates at least give lip service to. "The fact is that rolling back the income tax from 5.3 to 5 percent is fiscally irresponsible. We can't afford it," he says. "The tax to cut is the property tax. And we can't cut the property tax if we don't restore local aid and we can't restore local aid if we roll back the income tax."
Patrick's "Moving Massachusetts Forward" policy book contains a number of proposals that he says comprise "a vision to compete in the new economy." They include state incentives for stem cell and energy research, using state funds to leverage private capital to provide start-up funding for new businesses, and cutting the time required for state permits or approval to no more than six months. He also supports the economic stimulus package currently pending in the Legislature.
"As governor, I will be personally involved in expanding opportunity and business growth," he says. "I know how business decisions are made and which factors matter most. Massachusetts has suffered for too long at the hands of politicians, locally and nationally, with little active engagement in expanding jobs and the economy."
Patrick has called for lifting the cap on lottery funds and says the state should set aside a fixed percentage of revenues for local aid, to reserve the money for local governments during tough economic times. He also supports increasing the minimum wage, which he says will reduce the number of working poor.
He is the only candidate to endorse the idea of allowing Boston and other municipalities to impose a meals tax, or other local-option tax, saying they would help towns manage their budgets without having to raise local property taxes.
Grace Ross (Green-Rainbow Party)
Ross would like to reform the state's income tax to ease the burden placed upon "the regular folks," saying "if people saw their taxes going to what they wanted them to go to, they'd be fine with [paying the income tax]."
Ross opposes rolling back the state's income tax rate. "It's one of the more just ways our government gets revenue," she says. But she adds that in voting for the rollback in 2000 and continuing to demand it today, voters are "expressing a genuine frustration about putting more money in and not getting back what they need."
"At some point people need to be willing to stand up and say you know, tax breaks for the really wealthy when the rest of us can't even make ends meet that's just not okay," she says.
* Compiled by Boston.com Staff from published reports in the Boston Globe, the candidates' campaigns, and other sources.