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Careful what you wish for

BY ANY MEASURE, this gubernatorial election stands as a historic moment. Voters will elect either the first woman or the first African-American governor in the Commonwealth’s rich history. Voters seeking change will get their wish either way.

Change is a powerful theme in politics, but voters need to be reminded that change can be for the worse. The central question of this election is: Are we ready to abandon the progress we’ve made since the days of one-party rule on Beacon Hill?

One-party rule means increased, wasteful spending by the Legislature. I served in the Legislature for more than a decade. I know firsthand how difficult it is to resist the urge to spend the taxpayers’ money. I saw government spending grow unchecked throughout the 1980s under Democratic governors and Democratic legislative leaders, and watched in horror as they ended the decade by raising the income tax rate two years in a row. It took Republican governors more than a decade to undo that damage. Indeed, the job’s still not done, as Democrats in the Legislature continue to refuse to roll back the income tax rate to 5 percent, six years after the voters ordered them to do so.

Our state government works most effectively when the governor stands ready to balance that reckless impulse with a firm ‘‘no.’’ Had Mitt Romney lost in 2002, I have no doubt that a Democratic governor and the Democratic Legislature would have repealed job-creating tax cuts for Massachusetts companies like Raytheon and Fidelity and, even worse, imposed new taxes to close the budget deficit.

Governor Romney thwarted a raft of costly, bad ideas—some with his veto authority, some with a straightforward explanation to the public, and many more just by his presence in the executive office, on the same floor in the State House as the legislative leadership. With a Democrat in that same office, the floodgates will open, at taxpayer expense.

Massachusetts now operates in a flat, global economy. The state cannot prosper in this highly competitive environment with bloated state budgets, burdensome regulations on businesses, and new taxes—all of which are certain under one-party Democratic rule.

For 16 years, the Weld, Cellucci, Swift, and Romney administrations have provided balance and instilled fiscal discipline in Massachusetts state government. Under Republican governors, Massachusetts has repeatedly cut taxes, balanced budgets, imposed accountability in education, reformed welfare, and improved healthcare for all our citizens.

Change can be a good thing. But a change back to one-party rule would be dangerous for Massachusetts. Voters should not forget our state’s history. A balanced, two-party state government with a Republican governor and a Democratic Legislature will ensure our continuing success in the 21st century.

Paul Cellucci, former governor and US ambassador to Canada, is special counsel at the law firm of McCarter & English, LLP.

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