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GOP Moderates: Gov. Paul Cellucci (R-Mass.)

Free Media
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Profile: Gov. Cellucci

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Campaign 2000
Live: "Free Media"
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Monday, July 31, 2000; 12:30 p.m. EDT

The Republican National Convention represents an opportunity for party members nationwide to gather, show support for their presidential nominee and plan strategy for the fall's elections. But what does such an opportunity mean to the delegates and officials of the most Democratic states in the country? Massachusetts' more moderate, centrist Republicans turned out in force for Sen. John McCain in the March 7 primary, giving him 65 percent of the vote and 37 delegates. But McCain has thrown his support -- and his delegates to Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

Gov. Paul Cellucci (R-Mass.) (File photo)

What does the more conservative face of the Bush-Cheney ticket mean to Massachusetts voters and moderate Republicans across the country? Gov. Paul Cellucci (R-Mass.) was live online on Monday, July 31 to talk about the GOP presidential ticket and this fall's elections. The transcript follows:

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

Free Media: Good afternoon, Gov. Cellucci, and welcome. You're here representing one of the most Democratic states in the union, which went for Sen. John McCain in the March 7 primary. How does the state GOP's more moderate stance affect you and your delegation here at the convention?

Gov. Paul Cellucci: The first thing I would say is that the Massachusetts delegation is at the same hotel as Gov. Bush, so I think we're doing OK. Our delegation, including the 30 McCain delegates, is united behind Gov. Bush.

Washington, D.C.: Governor, you are more progressive on gay and lesbian equality than most other Republicans. What will it take for the Republican Party to move into the mainstream and oppose discrimination against all groups? How are you treated by Republicans from other regions when you discuss the issue or when it comes up?

Gov. Paul Cellucci: The thing I like most about Gov. Bush is that he is inclusive -- that's his record in Texas, and that's the kind of person he is. And although we may not agree on some specific issues, I know that he will continue to be very inclusive. And this is demonstrated by the vote he received in the most recent Texas gubernatorial election -- he had broad support from many kinds of different constituency groups. As far as I'm concerned, I get treated fine by Republicans wherever I go -- whatever state I go to, whatever delegation I talk to.

New York, N.Y.: How has the seemingly endless construction on the Big Dig affected your administration?

Gov. Paul Cellucci: The Big Dig is an issue that we've dealt with and we're almost two-thirds of the way through. Andrew Natsios, the new manager of the Big Dig, has my specific instructions to double-check and triple-check all the numbers so that we know exactly what it will cost to complete. He's also been instructed to try to identify cost savings in places where the Big Dig can realize revenue from asset sales. And his third priority will be to make sure that when we take the old elevated roadway down, that we will reconnect downtown Boston with its waterfront, creating open space and public access that will beautify the city of Boston for decades to come. So this project is important for Boston, it's important for the economy of Massachusetts and New England, and we will finish it.

But the good thing is that Massachusetts was able to deal with the overruns from a position of strength. We have over $4 billion in reserve accounts, and a booming economy. The unemployment rate average for the first six months of 2000 was 2.7 percent, which is the lowest six-month average since we've been keeping records. So as we deal with bumps on the road like the Big Dig, we have prepared Massachusetts for the future.

The press hasn't been exactly what I would've wanted, but it's my job to deal with it, and that's exactly what I've done.

Cambridge, Mass.: Governor, the Republican Party prides itself on the philosophy of financial conservatism and "fiscal discipline." Though both you and Governor Bush promote this notion, the budget proposals you have introduced in Massachusetts -- and Gov. Bush has for the nation -- seem to contradict the very definition. Could you explain how one can be considered conservative by eliminating billions through a tax cut at the state level and trillions on the national level while expanding spending on the other end for various social programs.

As I see it, conservative is the last word I would use to describe one whose largely unpredictable budget leaves nothing for the unexpected. (for example: rising public health-care costs seen in Medicaid, budget shortfalls in Texas etc.) It seems that the party is trying to dip into both ends of the scale of compassion and conservatism which does not promote the highest confidence financially in these unpredictable times.

Gov. Paul Cellucci: In Massachusetts, we have substantial reserves to deal with unexpected emergencies. We have $1.6 billion in the Rainy Day Fund, over $2 billion in the unemployment insurance trust fund, and $500 or $600 million in other reserve accounts. Budgeting is about setting priorities and then making sure you fund those priorities within the context of a sustainable budget. For example, in Massachusetts, the last seven years, we have significantly increased state funding for local schools, because that is a top priority for me, while at the same time, we've cut taxes by over $2 billion. And those tax cuts have been the fuel for the booming economy of our state.

Gov. Bush and I both recognize that it's not the government's money; it's the people's money. And we should only take what we absolutely need.

Arlington, Va.: How do you think Dick Cheney's conservative voting record will play among Republicans in Massachusetts?

Gov. Paul Cellucci: I believe that Republicans in Massachusetts will focus on Dick Cheney's international experience as the secretary of defense during the Persian Gulf War, which brings balance to the ticket. I don't think his voting record of many, many years ago will be a big factor.

Washington, D.C.: What's the latest news on the Senate race, now that Republican candidate Jack E. Robinson has gotten back in? Where do you stand on his candidacy?

Gov. Paul Cellucci: I admire Jack E. Robinson's perseverance, and I think that he's doing very well on his own. He now has this image of being an outsider who doesn't have to rely on the party. In fact, I think that's his strongest asset right now. I intend to focus on the ballot initiative to cut the income tax back to 5 percent, and Gov. Bush's presidential campaign, both of which I might add, will help Jack E. Robinson in his campaign. So I wish him luck.

Washington, D.C.: Massachusetts Republicans have had a generation to take on Ted Kennedy. Why are there no really viable candidates? Is Robinson the best the party could do?

Gov. Paul Cellucci: Unfortunately, people weren't exactly lining up to take on Sen. Kennedy in Massachusetts. Same thing happened to the Democrats in Utah, where Sen. Hatch is running unopposed. By the way, we had a strong candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1996, Gov. Weld, and a strong candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1994, Mitt Romney. And we'll continue to look for strong candidates in the future.

Washington, D.C.: Who will you name to the Senate if John Kerry is the Democratic vice presidential candidate. Yourself? Jane Swift?

Gov. Paul Cellucci: Well, a Gore-Kerry ticket would have to win before there would be a vacancy, and I will do everything in my power to make sure that Al Gore doesn't win. And the only thing I will say -- if that were to occur -- is that I would appoint a Republican.

Cincinnati, Ohio: The federal and state governments have been running record revenues for more than 5 years. Surpluses at the state level are healthier than ever and yet Congress and the state legislatures seem to find endless ways to spend more and more money.

In Ohio, for example, spending has been outstripping inflation at a 2-to-1 clip for more than a decade under Republican leadership.

When will Republicans stand up and be counted for limited government and lower taxes and spending and not simply mouth the words?

Gov. Paul Cellucci: During the Weld-Cellucci-Swift years in Massachusetts, we've cut taxes 40 times, representing about $3 billion in annual revenues. In addition, Lt. Gov. Swift and I had led the effort to place a ballot initiative on November's ballot to cut our state income tax from 5.85 percent to 5 percent. This is the tax Gov. Dukakis raised on a temporary basis back in 1990. We think 10 years is more than temporary. This tax cut is critically important for the future of the Massachusetts economy and our competitive position, and if approved by the voters, will be an additional $1.2 billion tax cut. I believe that this is the most important public policy decision that we'll be making in Massachusetts this year. I have challenged seven potential Democratic candidates for governor in 2002 to one-on-one debates on the issue of this tax cut. This will give me a forum to make my case to the voters of Massachusetts that this tax cut is important for our economic future because we cannot continue to be the state that has the highest income taxes in the country. And this tax cut will help families and small businesses. It will impose fiscal discipline on the state legislature, and it will keep the promise that was made in 1990.

Falls Church, Va.: What are you doing to release your state from the Democratic stranglehold of your two Senate seats? Would you consider running for the Senate?

Gov. Paul Cellucci: Just in case my wife is online, I'm not going to respond to this question.

Free Media: That was our last question for Gov. Paul Cellucci (R-Mass.) Thanks so much to Gov. Cellucci, and to everyone who joined us.

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