Gary Johnson and Bill Weld received good grades from Cato when they were governors.
Cato report cards are here. The best governors get an “A” and the worst get an “F.” The reports covering Johnson and Weld were written by Steve Moore and various coauthors.
Here are Johnson’s grades, with a few notes from the reports:
- 1996, “B.” Johnson is “aggressively trying to make the state more taxpayer friendly. To control spending, Johnson has vetoed 200 bills passed by a liberal legislature.”
- 1998, “B.” Johnson is “a true citizen-lawmaker who calls himself a libertarian … In a big-government state like New Mexico … Johnson’s staunch fiscal conservatism has been much needed, but also much resisted.” Johnson “reduced the number of state employees by nearly 10 percent, and he has set a state record for legislative vetoes.”
- 2000, “B.” Johnson “has gained a well deserved reputation as a maverick governor. More so than just about any prominent politician in America today, Johnson has a libertarian attitude when it comes to government.” In “battling the legislators at every turn, Johnson has succeeded in cutting the state income tax, the gasoline tax, the state capital gains tax, and the unemployment tax. In 1999 he vetoed a 12-cent-a pack cigarette tax hike—not because he likes smoking, he says, but because he opposes all tax hikes.”
- 2002, “B.” Johnson “has done much to create private-sector jobs and to erode the culture of dependence on government in New Mexico.”
Why didn’t Johnson get some “A” grades from Cato? In most of the reports, he scored rather middling on spending. Also, the 2002 report suggests that the legislature blocked many of his reforms.
Here are Weld’s grades:
- 1992, “A.” Weld cut the budget and pushed to reduce income and capital gains taxes.
- 1994, “B.” Weld cut spending, balanced the budget, improved the state’s bond rating, and cut numerous taxes. Even with a Democratic legislature, “Weld has a stunningly successful fiscal record.”
- 1996, “B.” Weld “began to engage in a whirlwind of government downsizing. In his first two years in office, the state budget actually declined in nominal terms—an astonishing achievement given the pro-spending inclinations of the legislature. Weld privatized state services, slashed the public payroll, and cut general welfare assistance for employable adults. Weld has also been a supply-side tax cutter.”
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