Mitt Romney, who has pledged to bring his business sense to the White House, outlined an economic stimulus package Saturday far bigger than anything President Bush, congressional leaders or top presidential rivals have suggested. The Republican presidential contender also celebrated an easy win in Nevada’s caucuses, which followed up his victory Tuesday in Michigan’s primary.
“In the last week, that means that two of the battleground states have come out strongly for our campaign,” Romney told reporters after flying to Florida from Nevada.
The former Massachusetts governor said that if he could hold on to those two states in a general-election campaign, “that would be a pretty clear indication we were going to win the White House. We’d only have one other state that would be key: The state we happen to be in right now.” Florida hold its primary on Jan. 29.
In outlining his stimulus package, Romney said he wasn’t trying to upstage the president or others, merely outlining the plan he felt would best stave off recession.
“The cost of a recession to the government is a lot larger than the cost of what I’m talking about,” he told reporters as he outlined the plan aboard his campaign plane.
Tax cuts for businesses
The big-ticket item is a proposal to allow any business to write off 100 percent of new equipment purchases for the next two years, retroactive to Jan. 1. It carries an estimated price tag of $81 billion in 2008.
In addition, the tax rate on businesses would be cut from 35 percent to 20 percent over two years, with the first 10-percent cut this year costing $51 billion.
Individuals, meanwhile, would benefit from a proposal to reduce the lowest income tax rate from 10 percent to 7.5 percent, which would cost an estimated $28 billion.
The plan also calls for instituting that rate for 2007 earnings, meaning those earning less than $97,500 — the cutoff point for contributing to the Social Security tax fund — would receive a rebate of about $400 when they file tax returns this winter.
That change would cost $22 billion in 2008, and be coupled with an elimination of Social Security payroll taxes for workers over age 65 that would cost $20 billion and equally benefit businesses and individuals.
Coupled with a $32 billion program Romney has already proposed to eliminate taxes on all savings for those making under $200,000 annually, the package costs $233 billion — or about 1.7 percent of the gross domestic product.
On Friday, the president said his plan would cost about 1 percent of the value of all goods and services produced in the country, while rival John McCain offered a more modest proposal with no price tag attached. For example, the Arizona senator proposed cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent — 5 percent less than Romney.
'It's all about jobs'
The former governor rebuffed any suggestion that his plan indicated he favored business interests rather than those of individuals.
Romney earned twin law and business degrees at Harvard University before earning tens of millions of dollars as a business consultant and venture capitalist. He regularly pleads for a more sympathetic view of large corporate profits, saying they are often plowed back into a business.
“The idea for lowering a corporate tax rate and expensing capital goods is to get more people employed in this country. I am not looking to pay larger bonuses to corporate executives,” he said. “It’s all about jobs. It’s all about keeping employers thriving and adding jobs.”
Romney said his Nevada victory proved that he’s “not concentrating just on one region or a few states.”
Change in strategy
Romney’s initial strategy was to pick up big back-to-back wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, but he lost both states and had to shift his game plan to focus on getting the highest number of delegates rather than using momentum to get the nomination.
“I’m not looking just to get a couple high-profile victories; I want to get delegates and I want to win this nomination,” Romney declared.
Romney also fended off suggestions that he could win only in scarcely contested states — Wyoming and Nevada — and his native state of Michigan but not hard-fought states in which he went up against several candidates.
“I reject the premise,” he said, adding that he competed aggressively in all three states he won.
Looking ahead to Florida, Romney saw a wide-open battle. He plans to campaign heavily in the state during the coming week, before assessing his progress and deciding how much time to devote to early work in the more than 20 states voting Feb. 5.
“Maybe after a win in Nevada and the results in South Carolina, there may be some separation or some people may decide to put more into it or take something out of it, but right now, it looks like how Florida goes is anybody’s guess,” he said.