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Gov. Romney's Fee On Sightless: A Moment Of Political Blindness?

Dec 14, 2011

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From the How-did-I-not-know-that? department came a fact I learned from listening to Chris Arnold's report on NPR's Morning Edition Wednesday.

When Mitt Romney was Massachusetts governor in 2003 and facing with a $3 billion state budget deficit, he didn't want to raise taxes since that would prevent him in the future from claiming he hadn't raised taxes.

So he proposed new or increased fees, including a $10 licensing fee on the blind so a sight-impaired person could receive a state certificate of blindness.

Really? A blind person had to get a license of blindness? There's nothing in the story nor can I find anything by googling to indicate there were similar fees for the deaf, amputees or widows or orphans.

Actually, in 2007, the Boston Globe reported that it didn't stop at the $10 licensing fee for the blind:

"Two proposed fees that drew some of the most criticism would have imposed a new $10 charge on those seeking a certification of blindness from the state and another $15 fee for photo identification cards for the blind. They were approved by lawmakers, but later repealed.

"Bob Hachey, president of Bay State Council of the Blind, said that while the fees were relatively modest, they could have made life harder on blind individuals on fixed incomes. He said Romney's penchant for fees even earned him a nickname.

" 'We renamed him 'Fee-Fee.' He was so unwilling to raise taxes that he was wanting to put all these fees in place instead,' Hachey said."

It seems remarkable that Romney and the legislature enacted the blindness fee in Massachusetts. Doesn't it seem like someone would have said: "You know, on second thought, this blind fee thing doesn't seem like such a good idea after all?"

Backing a fee for the blind seems like the kind of thing no ambitious politician would want to see coming back at him from a rival's "oppo research" team.

That Massachusetts lawmakers eventually repealed the fee suggests that they recognized their initial action as a case of political blindness.

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