Republican Gubernatorial Hopefuls Face Off at the Kennedy School

House Minority Leader Steven D. Pierce (R-Westfield) admitted last night at a debate between Republican gubernatorial candidates that he made a mistake by consistently filing tax returns years late, but said as governor he would still be fit to address the state's fiscal crisis.

Pierce, who spoke with three other hopefuls at the Kennedy School of Government's Institute of Politics forum, said the late filing was "just a matter of some inattention to some personal affairs." He explained that he had expected refunds which would have legally allowed him to delay sending out his tax forms.

Last week it was disclosed that, in apparent violation of state and federal law, Pierce had filed tax forms at least one year late on three separate occasions since 1986.

Turning to his campaign program, Pierce said the state's budget crisis must be the top priority for any governor who wants to restore legitimacy to state government. Citing a poll that shows that 40 percent of state residents would leave if they could move elsewhere, Pierce said Massachusetts is currently experiencing a "crisis of confidence."

Notably absent from the debate was former U.S. attorney William F. Weld '66, considered a front-runner in the bid to receive the Republican party nomination at its statewide convention in March. According to campaign manager Ray Howell, Weld was obligated to attend a previously scheduled fund-raiser in Worcester.

The remaining candidates for governor articulated their plans for Massachusetts should they be elected to the state's highest office.

'Enslaved' to the Past

Former U.S. Rep Paul Cronin said other candidates are using "terms which enslave them to the past," seeing tax hikes and spending cuts as the only options for dealing with fiscal matters.

Cronin called for fundamental restructuring of state services, and said responsibilities must be assigned to the level of government--local, regional or state--best equipped to handle them by improving efficiency and cutting costs.

The former representative cited a 1969 study which he conducted while studying at the K-School, which found that with restructuring, "We could cut the property tax by 50 percent...without eliminating any services at all."

Computerized Files

As governor, Len Umina electrical engineer from Marlboro, said he would computerize all government agencies and would make all government files accessible to the public by computer.

Umina said computerization would allow the public to review the budget line-by-line and would boost public participation in government, ending what he calls a "patronage-based system" in Massachusetts.

Though he said his program would initially cost $500 million, Umina quoted estimates from the Boston Globe and computer research firms that said the state could eventually save more than $4 billion by making government more accountable to its constituents.

Guy Carbone, former Metropolitan District Commission chief, said the next governor must be able to "manage problems" and work with what will likely be a Democrat-controlled legislature.

As MDC commissioner, Carbone said he cut 10 percent of the payroll without any loss in productivity and said this experience makes him qualified to make similar cuts at the statewide level.