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Santorum’s fiscal policy: More conservative than Romney’s

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Rick Santorum has a 32-point plan for “building economic freedom.” Mitt Romney has a 59-point plan to “get America back to work.” At first glance, there aren’t huge differences between the two on proposed budget and economic reforms. But Santorum is slightly to Romney’s right when it comes to many of the specific campaign promises. REUTERS

Upon taking office, Santorum vows to cut non-defense discretionary spending to 2008 levels — about a 28 percent reduction from fiscal 2012 levels. Romney, by contrast, would cut the same category of spending by 5 percent. Both vow to pass a balanced budget amendment that would cap spending, but Santorum would set the cap at 18 percent of GDP while Romney sets it at 20 percent, with promises to lower the cap further “as spending comes under control.” Santorum also takes a slightly harder line when it comes to regulatory policy, vowing to “eliminate all other Obama era regulations with economic impact over $100 million.” Romney is more vague, promising to “initiate review and elimination” of regulations that “unduly burden the economy.”

Keeping in line with his social conservatism, Santorum also vows to rein in spending for social programs by freezing spending levels for “Medicaid, Housing, Education, Job Training and Food Stamps,” as well as block-granting Medicaid. Romney’s on board with block-granting Medicaid — a reform that would ultimately reduce spending in the program. But Romney also wants to bolster job training programs as a means of modernizing the workforce and making an “investment in human capital” — reforms that would cut or eliminate some federal worker retraining programs but redirect the money to the states and individuals, rather than simply freeze spending as Santorum proposes.

But when it comes to fiscal reforms, the biggest contrast is on taxes: Santorum wants to bring down the individual tax rate to 10 percent and 28 percent, while cutting the corporate rate to 17.5 percent and lowering capital gains taxes. By comparison, Romney would slash the corporate tax rate to 25 percent but would keep the other tax rates largely the same.

That said, compared to some of the other 2012 contenders, Santorum is hardly a tea partier’s fiscally conservative dream: He’s a stalwart supporter of earmarks who vows to reject any automatic cuts to defense spending.

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