Still Undecided? The Romney Recap For Voters, Part 2: The Mythical Governor

Mitt Romney failed in his run for Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in 1994; telling his brother after the loss:

“I never want to run for something again unless I can win.”

That statement likely marks the pivotal point in Romney’s attitude toward politics; the moment he became the Say Anything/Be Anything To Get Elected Mitt Romney. That mindset has become ingrained in his political persona.

As I said in Part 1 of this series, Romney’s so-called “Midas touch” is a myth. His presidential campaign website maintains claims that have been repeatedly debunked by both the right, claiming he’s really not a Conservative, and the left, explaining that he’s far too ambiguous to know what he is. Rarely has someone with so little conviction about anything managed to represent a major political party. Let’s parse the “facts”; here are a number of claims made by the Romney campaign that are blatantly false, as pointed out by members of  his own party; in this case, Right Wing News:

Romney has repeatedly claimed in his first year of office, he “turned a $3 billion deficit into a nearly $1 billion surplus, without raising taxes.”   However, that’s simply not true and neither is almost every statement his campaign has released about his gubernatorial record.

Contrary to the Romney spin machine,  he didn’t “turn a $3 billion dollar deficit into a nearly $1 billion surplus.”  Rather, the deficit was $1.3 billion according to Factcheck.org, and he balanced the budget with mostly tax and fee increases with very few spending cuts. As documented by the Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation, Romney “proposed four budgets while in office…each budget increased spending over the previous year.”  As Club for Growth echoed, Romney’s last budget “was a whopping 10.12% larger than the preceding fiscal year.”  Out of the 25 freshmen Republican Governors rated by the Cato Institute on fiscal issues, Romney had the 2nd worst score.

Romney often boasts about how he left a budget surplus at the end of his term, but this is also a myth. The Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation and the conservative Massachusetts think tank, the Beacon Hill Institute, both challenge the notion of a Romney budget surplus.  In fact, Romney left a billion dollar deficit for his successor.

…Romney’s budgets were full of pork and he was infamous for lavishing money on staff salaries, incurring outlandish travel expenses, and granting pay hikes for state officials and lawmakers.

According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate was 5.2% when he assumed the governorship and 5.3% by the end of his term, a figure significantly higher than the national average at the time: 4.6%.  But Romney’s unemployment figures are actually much worse when one factors in that Massachusetts was 2nd in the nation for the number of people departing the state in search of employment elsewhere.  Since they’re no longer residents, these people weren’t counted in the unemployment statistics.

According to labor market economists Andrew Sum and Joseph McLaughlin of Northeastern University, manufacturing employment during the Romney years “declined by 14%, the third worst record in the country.”   Using Federal Bureau of  Labor statistics, the same scholars wrote that “from 2001 to 2006, Massachusetts ranked 49th in the nation in job creation…”

Romney has changed his position on over thirty key issues as he completed his metamorphosis into a conservative.  We expect politicians to change their mind on one or two issues over the course of a career, but when one changes their mind on EVERY foundational issue shortly before a run for the presidency, we must be skeptical.  Indeed, it is difficult to accept Romney’s conversion on so many issues as authentic.  This is why conservatives do not trust him.

By this point, any intelligent person is asking him/herself: Why the hell did they nominate him? The answer is simple:

While Republicans had everything they claimed they wanted in Bachmann, Santorum, and Perry: theocratic, Islamophobic, gay-hating, 47% trashing, anti-government extremists; they were missing the one key element necessary in today’s Republican candidate – they weren’t 1% minions. In a party wholly owned by Wall Street and the rich, Romney is the perfect candidate because he’s one of them.  As for that mythical Governor’s record; according to Boston.com:

On the campaign trail in 2002, Romney promised a jobs creation program “second to none in the history of the state,” pledging to use his corporate connections to lure chief executives across America to Massachusetts.

The results fell far short of the promise. During Romney’s four years in office, the state added a net 31,000 jobs, a growth rate of less than 1 percent compared to 5 percent nationally during the same period. State unemployment fell to 4.7 percent from a peak of 6 percent, but remained above the US average, then 4.4 percent.

Meanwhile, as the state recovery lagged other parts of the country, a net 233,000 people — 3.5 percent of the population — left the state, many seeking jobs elsewhere.

And in a rather interesting Romney twist on “job creation”, Boston.com reports:

One of his biggest wins came near the end of his term in 2006, when Massachusetts won a bidding war with other states, convincing pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb to build a $750 million plant at the former Fort Devens army base.

Romney touted the victory at a press conference, saying the state, with approval by the Legislature, had offered $60 million in incentives to the company to build its plant in Massachusetts, where it would eventually employ as many as 550 workers.

But records show the state only required Bristol-Myers Squibb to hire 350 workers to receive the tax breaks. And less than two months after Romney left office, MassDevelopment, a quasi-public development agency led by a Romney appointee, finalized an agreement reducing Bristol-Myers Squibb’s property taxes by about $35 million over 20 years, bringing total incentives to more than $100 million.

The deal provided one of the biggest tax incentive packages in state history. And it meant that the state would ultimately pay about $250,000 for each of the 400 jobs that exist at the plant today.

According to the Washington Post, As the newly elected Governor of Massachusetts,

“…Romney proposed creating 33 new fees and increasing 57 others _ enough, he said, to pull in an extra $59 million for the cash-strapped state.”

Romney’s fee increases disproportionately affected the working poor and middle class, as well as real small businesses, an aspect of his record you don’t  find Conservatives complaining about.

Romney’s proposed/instituted fees on  residents:

  • attempted to impose a $10 fee for a state certificate of blindness and $15 for a photo id card, but the Legislature got rid of the plans.
  • proposed a fee on mentally retarded citizens of $100 to pay for an intake assessment at the Department of Mental Retardation. The assessment was previously free. The test was to determine their eligibility for state services. The legislature rejected Romney’s proposed fee.
  • proposed a $50 fee for tuberculosis tests and wanted to charge a $400 fee if the person tested positive.
  • attempted to raise golf season passes from $50 to $150. Daily golfing fees went from from $17 to $22 for 18 holes, and from $15 to $17 for nine holes.
  • proposed increasing the charge for an inmate to make a phone call from 86 cents to $2.
  • proposed an increase in the drivers permit fee that would double the cost from $15 to $30.
  • proposed raising the gun licensing fee from $25 to $75. The state legislature increased it to $100. (The following year, the duration of a gun license was extended from four to six years; even so, a gun license that used to cost $25 for 4 years ($6.25 per year) became $100 for 6 years ($16.66 per year).
  • doubled the fee to use a cottage in a state park
  • raised hourly group skating fees at some ice rinks, which went from $15 and $40.
  • increased the fee for a nursing application from $75 to $100.
  • increased the fee for filing for divorce from $140 to $200.
  • increased the fee to change your name from $70 to $150.

Romney’s proposed/instituted fees on Real Small Businesses:

  • proposed a $100 biannual fee on first responders for the ability to flash their vehicles lights. Romney doubled fees for the certification of EMTs from $75 to $150 per person. The cost of certifying an ambulance equipped for basic life support doubled from $200 to $400.
  • increased the fee for a cremation inspection from $50 to $75.
  • increased the fee for a master barber license application from $38 to $57 and the fee to renew a barber’s license from $45 To $68.
  • increased the fee for a hairdresser shop license application from $75 to $113.
  • increased the fee for a pharmacist license application from $56 to $75.
  • increased the fee on a master plumber’s license from $45 to $68.
  • increased the fee for a psychologist license from $100 to $150 in 2003.
  • increased the fee to get a real estate salesman license from $18 to $27 and the fee to renew a license from $45 to $68.
  • increased the fee for a home inspector license from $225 to $338 and increased the renewal fee from $150 to $225.
  • increased the fee for a motor vehicle repair shop license from $100-a-year to $450 for a three year license.
  • increased the fee for milk laboratory certificate from $75 t0 $150.
  • increased the fee to renew a funeral directors license from $56 To $84.

While Romney’s policies nickel and dimed workers and real small businesses, the state’s wealthy residents received the holy grail of Republican politics: a capital gains tax cut. How many people in Massachusetts benefited from that cut you ask; a little over 150,000 people out of more than 6 million.

As for Romney’s Economic performance as Governor, here’s a brief recap via Think Progress:

1. Ranked 47th in job growth: Despite Romney’s professed expertise in creating jobs, Massachusetts ranked 47th in job growth during his time as governor. The state’s total job growth was just 0.9 percent, well behind other high-wage, high-skill economies in New York (2.7), California (4.7), and North Carolina (7.6). The national average, meanwhile, was better than 5 percent.

2. Suffered the second-largest labor force decline in the nation: Only Louisiana, which was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, saw a bigger decline in its labor force than Massachusetts during Romney’s tenure as governor. The US Census Bureau estimated that between July 2002 and July 2006, 222,000 more residents left Massachusetts for other states than came to it. That decline largely explains the state’s decreasing unemployment rate (from 5.6 to 4.7 percent) while Romney was in office, according to Northeastern University economics professor Andrew Sum. At the same time, the nation as a whole added 8 million people to the labor force.

3. Lost 14 percent of its manufacturing jobs: Massachusetts lost 14 percent of its manufacturing jobs during Romney’s time in office, according to Sum. The loss was double the rate that the nation as a whole lost manufacturing jobs. In 2004, Romney vetoed legislation that would have banned companies doing business with the state from outsourcing jobs to other countries.

4. Experienced “below average” economic growth and was “often near the bottom”: “There was not one measure where the state did well under his term in office. We were below average and often near the bottom,” Sum told the Washington Post in February. As a result, the state was more comparable to Rust Belt states like Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio than it was to other high-tech economies it typically competes with.

5. Piled on more debt than any other state: Romney left Massachusetts residents with $10,504 in per capita bond debt, the highest of any state in the nation when he left office in 2007. The state ranked second in debt as a percentage of personal income. Romney regularly omits those statistics from his Massachusetts record, instead touting the fact that he balanced the state’s budget (he was constitutionally required to do so)…

Perhaps the biggest myth about Mitt Romney’s time as Governor is that veto claim he makes over and over. He’s used it to claim he was bi-partisan, a true Conservative, fiscally responsible; whatever he’s trying to prove at the moment. His campaign site puts it this way:

Mitt cast more than 800 vetoes as he brought conservative principles to state government.

What he never mentions, but numerous news sites such as NPR have pointed out

the Legislature overrode nearly all of them, sometimes unanimously.

Whatever direction you approach Mitt Romney’s record as Governor from, there is no avoiding the fact that it is hardly the record he claims.

If you want more information on the real Mitt Romney, read these resources:

Still Undecided? the Romney Recap for Voters, Part 1: Bain Capital

2008 McCain Opposition Research on Mitt Romney 

FACTS MATTER: The Ultimate Guide To Mitt Romney’s Relationship With The Truth

Read my 3rd installment of this series tomorrow:

Still Undecided? The Romney Recap For Voters, Part 3: What a Romney Presidency Would Mean For Working Americans

This entry was posted in Campaigns, Debt and Budget, Election, Mitt Romney, Politics, Republicans, The Economy and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
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