As governor of Massachusetts, Weld supported the death penalty for cop killers and pushed for tougher criminal justice laws. On welfare reform, another key Republican issue, he passed the strictest law in the nation that put a time limit on cash benefits and required able bodied recipients to find a job or perform community service. Welfare rolls plummeted.
But it was Weld’s conservative fiscal policies that were most notable. When he took office in 1991, he faced a $1.8 billion dollar deficit and the worst bond rating in the country. He closed the operating deficit without borrowing from Wall Street or raising taxes. In his first budget proposal, state spending actually decreased year-over-year, a rare occurrence in any government bureaucracy. Both The Wall Street Journal and the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, rated him the most fiscally conservative governor in the country.
Weld took a fiscal axe to state spending in his first term, but more broadly he set out to radically change the perception of Massachusetts (a.k.a. Taxachusetts). He cut taxes 21 times, balanced every budget, privatized certain state services, reduced the state’s payroll, and put in place regulatory reforms to restore Massachusetts as a global competitor for high paying jobs. The real Massachusetts Miracle was that Weld was successful as a Republican governor in such a blue state, where Democrats outnumbered Republicans by more than 3 to 1 in the state legislature.