The Cato Institute released it's "grades" for the fiscal policy records (taxes and spending) of the governors of all 50 states. The full report card is here.
While officially Romney got a "C" that is the highest grade that any Governor got that had to work with a Democratic legislature. That he tied for 12th in the nation when he has to work with a 87% Democratic legislature is truly amazing.
In the full report (warning . . . it's a 40 page pdf) there's a lot more info, data, and even commentary on each of the Governors. Of Romney they write:
As Mitt Romney launches his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, his fiscal record as governor should be scrutinized. Romney likes to advance the image of himself as a governor who has fought a liberal Democratic legislature on various fronts. That's mostly true on spending: he proposed modest increases to the budget and line-item vetoed millions of dollars each year only to have most of those vetoes overridden. But Romney will likely also be eager to push the message that he was a governor who stood by a no-new-taxes pledge. That's mostly a myth. His first budget included no general tax increases but did include a $500 million increase in various fees. He later proposed $140 in business tax hikes through the closing of "loopholes" in the tax code. He announced in May 2004 that he wanted to cut the top income tax rate from 5.3 to 5 percent, but that was hardly an audacious stand. Voters had already passed a plan to do just that before Romney even took office. In his budget for 2006, he proposed $170 million more in business tax hikes, almost completely neutralizing the proposed income tax cut. If you consider the massive costs to taxpayers that his universal health care plan will inflict once he's left office, Romney's tenure is clearly not a triumph of small-government activism.
Much of that sounds pretty harsh (and some of it is outright misrepresentation or speculation), but the Cato Institue isn't dishing out praise to anyone. Even Gov. Blunt of Missouri (the ONLY one who got an "A" grade) didn't get only kind words from Cato:
Blunt hasn’t had to fight against tax increases since they are nowhere on anyone’s political radar screen. The second year of Blunt’s tenure, however, indicates that his status as one of the most fiscally disciplined new governors may be short-lived. His second budget proposed a massive spending increase of more than 8 percent, and the legislature was only too happy to oblige. It even reversed some of the cuts to Medicaid that passed in 2005.
For comparison of other 2008 GOP hopefuls:
Pataki got a "D"
If he runs for the Republican presidential nomination on a record like that, it’s going to be very hard for him to convince the small-government advocates who vote in the GOP presidential primaries that he’s still one of them.
Huckabee got an "F":
Huckabee wants to run for the GOP presidential nomination next year. He’s already been hailed as a viable big-government conservative candidate by some. That seems about right: Huckabee’s leadership has left taxpayers in Arkansas much worse off.
Overall, Romney did better than anyone else who had to work with a Democratic legislature. He's a true fiscal conservative . . . imagine what he could of done if he had the chance to work with a fiscally conservative legislature!