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Romney the best hope for a fiscal conservative president

The 2008 presidential election may seem light years away. But when it comes to who will be the Republican and Democratic nominees, the race will be decided in less than nine months.

Georgia, along with several populous states, has moved its presidential primary to early next winter. By Feb. 5, 2008, we will likely know who will win the Republican nomination for president.

With two GOP presidential debates behind us, including one in South Carolina this week, only one candidate has emerged for conservative principles of cutting taxes and reducing the size of government. He is former governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.

Romney is the only major candidate visiting Georgia this week as Republicans host their annual GOP state convention at the Gwinnett County Civic Center.

Republicans should embrace Romney for many reasons, but especially one important one heard during the 1992 Bush-Clinton campaign: "It's the economy, stupid."

While Iraq and the media's fascination with issues such as global warming or illegal immigration have captured our attention at the moment, when it comes down to it pocketbook issues such as the economy will play a vital role in who is elected our next president.

During the past 50 years, Presidents John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush stood on the side of the taxpayer by enacting tax cuts. So will former Gov. Mitt Romney.

Romney is a fiscal conservative, and he promotes cutting taxes and restraining government spending. His first pledge (already aired on television commercials) is to generously use the presidential veto on wasteful government spending.

But perhaps the most important policy he is advocating for hardworking taxpayers is one that the media has conveniently ignored - he wants to make the 2001 tax cuts permanent.

In 2001, President Bush convinced Congress to adopt income tax cuts that impacted all working Americans. Thankfully, those tax cuts kept our nation from diving into a deep recession after the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001.

The tax cuts reduced marginal income tax rates by three percentage points for the middle class depending on income: from 28 to 25 percent; from 31 to 28 percent; or from 36 to 33 percent. The top 39.6 percent rate fell to 35 percent. A new, 10 percent rate was created in addition to the current 15 percent rate for low-income workers.

The 2001 tax cuts have created the healthy economy we see today as the Dow Jones Industrial Average has moved from the 8,000 mark in the period after Sept. 11 to a record well north of 13,000.

When taxes are cut, our economy grows. Retirement portfolios have expanded with the Dow; inflation remains low; unemployment remains low; and Americans have more disposable wealth than we realize.

Unfortunately, that could all change as the tax cuts are set to expire in 2010. If Congress continues to be controlled by Democrats, there is a real possibility the House and Senate could refuse to make the tax cuts permanent.

Romney has the ability to make the case to the American people and Congress the importance of making tax cuts permanent. If not, then the tax cuts will automatically return to higher levels and that will severely hurt the American economy.

A new report by the Heritage Foundation found that with the planned spending already enacted by this Congress combined with the potential expiration of the tax cuts, the average Georgian would pay $2,743 more in taxes. That would result in the loss of more than 31,000 jobs in our state.

On the campaign trail, Romney speaks of free-market capitalism and how an economic policy of low taxes and limited government stimulates our economy. He also has a record that illustrates his support of free-market economics. As governor of a liberal state, he turned a $250 million retroactive capital gains tax hike into a $250 million tax refund, made investment tax credits permanent, passed sales tax holidays, gave property tax breaks to seniors and cut state spending.

Every economy cycles up and down, but there is no reason for a big-spending Congress and federal tax hikes to prematurely push us into a recession. Romney will stand tough against the forces within Washington that want to set back our economy and instead fight to keep more money in our pockets and our economy strong. That's the kind of president we need.

Mark Burkhalter, a state representative from Johns Creek, is Speaker Pro Tempore of the Georgia House. Have any thoughts about this column? Share them with us at letters@gwinnettdailypost.com. Letters should be no more than 200 words and are subject to approval by the publisher. Letters may be edited for style and space requirements. Please sign your name and provide an address and a daytime telephone number. Address letters for publication to: Letters to the Editor, Gwinnett Daily Post, P.O. Box 603, Lawrenceville, GA 30046-0603. The fax number is 770-339-8081.