Any Republican governor of a blue state who manages to balance the budget without raising taxes should be a nominee for Mount Rushmore, to say nothing of president.

Mitt Romney was governor of a state so blue, it’s North Korea with more Irish people. He balanced the budget without raising taxes.

Even Ronald Reagan raised taxes as governor of California, imposing a $1 billion tax increase his first year in office. It was the largest tax hike by a governor in the nation’s history, raising income, corporate, sales and inheritance taxes. Five years later, Reagan raised taxes again by another $1.5 billion.

To be fair, unlike liberals, he also provided tax rebates that, over his tenure in office, totaled $5.7 billion, including $4 billion in property tax rebates.

But even Reagan didn’t stop the growth of state government: While he was governor of California, the budget increased from $4.6 billion to $10.2 billion.

Republicans are able to contextualize Reagan’s record -– it was California! — but seem unable to contextualize Mitt Romney’s record, even though he had to govern a state far more liberal than California was half a century ago.

When Reagan was governor, the California Assembly was majority Democrat, but the Senate was evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.

Gov. Romney had to contend with a 200-person state Legislature that included only 29 Republicans.

As Reagan tax guru Arthur Laffer has admitted, Reagan’s specialty was cutting taxes, not cutting spending. Reagan, he said, found “it hard to say no” and cutting spending is a “green-eyeshade budget thing,” that requires poring over budgets, whereas cutting taxes can be done in the abstract.

Romney is a green-eyeshade guy.

Like Reagan, Romney inherited a huge, Democrat-created budget deficit. The existing Massachusetts deficit was already more than half a billion dollars when Romney took office halfway through a fiscal year, with a projected deficit of $3 billion for the following fiscal year.

And yet, Romney balanced Massachusetts’ budget each year he was in office and left the state with a surplus, without raising taxes.

To the contrary, every single budget Romney submitted included income tax cuts — all of which were rejected by the 85-percent Democratic Legislature. (The last time Massachusetts legislators approved an income tax cut was when it was attached to a bill raising their own salaries by 55 percent.)

Romney balanced the budget by slashing spending, eliminating ridiculous corporate tax loopholes and increasing user fees for government services consumed by only some citizens, such as court filings, taking the bar exam, boating, hunting and golf licenses.

He cut state spending by $600 million, including reducing his own staff budget by $1.2 million, and hacked the largest government agency, Health and Human Services, down from 13 divisions to four. He did this largely by persuading the Legislature to give him emergency powers his first year in office to cut government programs without their consent.

Although Romney was not able to slip any income tax cuts past the Democratic Legislature, he won other tax cuts totaling nearly $400 million, including a one-time capital gains tax rebate and a two-day sales tax holiday for all purchases under $2,500.

He also vetoed more bills than any other governor in Massachusetts history, before or since. He vetoed bills concerning access to birth control, more spending on state zoos, and the creation of an Asian-American commission — all of which were reversed by the Legislature.

As Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, has said, “What else could he do?”

Romney left his successor, Deval Patrick, Democrat and friend of Obama, with a “rainy day fund” of $2.1 billion, more than tripled from $640 million when Romney took office. (Of course, as soon as Romney was gone, Patrick raided the rainy day fund, increased government spending and raised taxes.)

By contrast, when Santorum was in Congress, he wouldn’t even vote to eliminate federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Santorum supported all sorts of big-government spending plans — No Child Left Behind, prescription drug coverage for seniors and the “bridge to nowhere.”

But you’d think we would at least have Santorum’s vote against federal funding for pornographers and deviants. Alas, no.

The NEA, you will recall, uses federal taxpayer money to subsidize crucifixes submerged in urine, photos of bullwhips up a man’s derriere, poems celebrating the Central Park jogger’s rapists, photos of amputated human genitalia, vomit, mutilated corpses and dead fetuses. (And that’s just the children’s wing of the museum!)

But Rick Santorum voted against cutting funding for the NEA every time a vote was taken both as a representative and a senator — in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1997 and 1998. These weren’t accidental votes. Each one was deemed a key conservative vote on which members of Congress would be graded by the American Conservative Union.

There’s your “true conservative,” values voters.

Unfortunately, the more time a person spends in Washington, the more likely he is to consider it perfectly reasonable for the federal government to redistribute money from hardworking taxpayers to pornographers and con men.

America is on a precipice. Unless we send Lizzie Borden to Washington next January, our country will begin an inevitable decline into a useless socialist country, with no money for national defense, no entrepreneurship, no new businesses being created, no new pharmaceuticals or cancer cures — just the endless redistribution of an ever-dwindling pool of wealth from the makers to the takers, overseen by career politicians like Rick Santorum.

Mitt Romney has spent no time in Washington. He was an extremely frugal fiscal conservative in a state where cutting government spending was as foreign an idea as it is in Washington today.

Do you think a man who slashed spending in Massachusetts (North Korea), rescued the financially depressed Olympics and saved dozens of companies from bankruptcy would consider a photo of a bullwhip stuck in a man’s buttocks a wise investment of the taxpayers’ money?

1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106; 816-581-7500