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Romney’s Jobs Record As Governor Is Up For Debate

In this 2004 file photo, Gov. Mitt Romney talks with cement worker Gilberto Teves during a walk through of Hyannis. (AP/Cape Cod Times)

In this 2004 file photo, Gov. Mitt Romney talks with cement worker Gilberto Teves during a walk through of Hyannis. (AP/Cape Cod Times)

BOSTON — The Massachusetts economy has been getting a lot of attention on the presidential campaign trail. During a recent Republican debate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry leveled this charge:

Gov. Romney worked in the private sector and he did a great job. But when he moved that experience to government, he had one of the lowest job creation rates in the country. Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt.

Perry is referring to a Northeastern University study that ranked Massachusetts 47th in the nation in job growth while Romney was in office. Romney supporters say those numbers don’t reflect the positive things that Romney did for the state economy. But most say his economic record in Massachusetts was mixed.

Even when Romney critics are asked to name an economic accomplishment of the former governor, they cite the Bristol-Myers Squibb drug manufacturing complex at the former Fort Devens Army base in central Massachusetts. It’s the largest of the 75 businesses now at the former base, employing about 400 people. Romney is credited with using tax incentives to help lure the company to Massachusetts in 2006.

“Bristol-Myers Squibb is a big Fortune 500 company deciding to build a big facility in Massachusetts and it was a big deal at the time,” said Rick Lord, president of Associated Industries of Massachusetts. “And I credit the Romney administration with making that happen.”

Lord says Bristol-Myers Squibb is proof that Romney did more to help create jobs in Massachusetts than that 47th ranking suggests. Lord and others say what Romney did for the state’s economy can’t really be quantified. They say that ranking was affected by things outside of a governor’s control, like housing and energy costs and high unemployment insurance costs for business.

Chris Anderson*, president of the Massachusetts High Technology Council, says when Romney was in office, the state was experiencing slow overall growth.

“Have you noticed our population change [relative to other states' growth] over the last 10 years? Down,” Anderson said.

And, Anderson says, those numbers don’t reflect the challenges Romney faced.

“Mitt Romney came in trying to create a culture of competitiveness, looking at systems change,” Anderson said. “I think for the most part employers felt the governor was working hard to create changes in systems and working in a legislative environment that ultimately was reluctant to reform systems.”

Anderson says another major Romney accomplishment was preserving the Natick and Hanscom military bases, which kept more than 30,000 jobs in Massachusetts. So he feels Romney’s record was at best good, at worst mixed.

But there are others who have a completely different view.

“I can see if you’re looking at things that sound nice you might say his record is a mixed bag, but if you’re talking about actual job creation, it has to be termed an unquestioned failure,” said Tim Sullivan, spokesman for the AFL-CIO, Massachusetts’ largest labor union. He disputes even the Bristol-Myers Squibb facility as a plus for Romney. He says that happened in spite of the governor.

“When he took office the state was losing jobs. It was the middle of a recession that he had nothing to do with. But by the end of his term, the nation was recovering and Massachusetts was adding jobs — but at a slower rate than most other states.”
– Michael Widmer,
Massachusetts Taxpayers Association

“The problem is [Romney] opposes things like project labor agreements which guarantee that local workers get jobs,” Sullivan said. “The reason Bristol-Myers Squibb got done was because of project labor agreements. So it may be his best private sector achievement is because of a policy he doesn’t even support.”

That’s a common complaint from Romney critics — that the former governor’s economic priorities were unclear. They say while he was selling the state to CEOs, he was making policy decisions that harmed jobs.

“The administration rarely put together a comprehensive economic strategy,” said Mike Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. He says Romney’s policies on the environment and against human stem cell research made the state less able to compete against lower-cost areas of the country.

“When it comes to producing products, costs of manufacturing are very high here, so that we lose jobs,” Widmer said. “What did he do about that? Very little. In fact Romney in three consecutive years proposed corporate tax loophole closings.”

Closing corporate loopholes — or some say increasing corporate taxes — is still probably the main area of debate about Romney’s economic record. To cover a more than $2 billion budget gap, his administration pushed through a series of changes in the tax code. Those cost businesses hundreds of millions of dollars. Widmer says many Massachusetts business leaders were angry, because they expected something different from a businessman in the corner office.

“The corporate taxes outweighed everything in terms of his economic record,” Widmer said.

Ironically, in his “Believe in America” plan for jobs if he’s elected president, Romney calls for an immediate 10 percent cut in corporate taxes. The plan describes Romney’s time as governor by saying that when he came into office, the state was losing jobs every month, but when Romney left, the economy was generating jobs by the thousands.

Widmer says that’s somewhat disingenuous.

“When he took office the state was losing jobs,” he said. “It was the middle of a recession that he had nothing to do with. But by the end of his term, the nation was recovering and Massachusetts was adding jobs — but at a slower rate than most other states. That’s not exactly a record to crow about.”

At the end of his term in 2006, Romney also spent a lot of time outside of Massachusetts, preparing for his first attempt at the GOP presidential nomination in 2008. Romney was said to be out of Massachusetts for more than half of his last year in office. Even so, his supporters, like Jim Stergios, president of The Pioneer Institute, say Romney’s effect was more subtle and he helped make deep changes that Massachusetts still benefits from today.

“Businesses will not come to Massachusetts because of one individual,” Stergios said. “Businesses always look at long term — what’s their investment? The next election could bring someone very different. They’re looking for structural changes. That’s why I say Gov. Romney did some very important work to make this state much competitive.”

So the complicated picture of what Romney did — or didn’t do — as governor, and what we now know in hindsight, will still be up for debate both here and on the presidential campaign trail.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified Chris Anderson as Curt Anderson.

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  • Anonymous

    Don’t forget the jobs and companies Romney destroyed in the private sector. 

  • wjson

    The comment by Curt Anderson regarding the change in Massachusetts population makes almost no sense.  First the population has increased in 1990 (4.9%), 2000 (5.5%) and 2010 (3.1%), this information is from the US 2010 Census. 

    Secondly the numbers almost match to a T the growth rate of the Northeast region!  What in the heck is he talking about?  “Have you noticed our population change [relative to other states' growth] over the last 10 years? Down,” Anderson said.

    Thankfully the Massachusetts High Technology Council is an industry group and we are not wasting taxpayer money on this guy’s salary!

    Here is the link.  

    http://2010.census.gov/2010census/data/apportionment-pop-text.php

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2KD3KYWFFQISMOCK762F6EHZTY david mowers

    Bain Capital fired 50% of the workers in each company they bought then leveraged all the assets and credit then sold the company to foreign investors who closed them down and moved jobs offshore. He used State tax breaks, taxpayer subsidies and dumped the pensions from these companies onto the taxpayer via the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

    Mitt Romney is a traitor.

    Bain Capital owns Clear Channel 850 radio stations including ALL the conservative talk radio shows. The American Berlusconi. Voting for Romney is the same as voting for Obama. He hates the middle class, pays no taxes and dismantles American companies for short term profit at taxpayer expense.

    TRAITOR.

    • Raleigh1951

      where are the statistic to back this up

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shirley-Gallagher/100002579722348 Shirley Gallagher

        How many President’s do you know that has or had a Blind Trust in Swiss Bank Account in the second largest Bank in Swiss LAND.

        Romney and his momron friends at Bain Capital took the money and put in a Swiss Bank to keep from paying tax on it,  stolen American’s money i might add,  from those American’s who lost their jobs, Benefits.

        And now Mitt Romney has teamed up with the Koch’s, Norquist, and Wall Street to try and win the W.H. to cause the same economy crisis all over again like the one we are still experiencing.

        Frontline Money, Power, and Wall Street caused the WORST economy Crisis since the Depression, due to De-Regulations. Mitt Romney wants to Repeal President Obama Regulations installed his first year in office.

        Do see a pattern her its all about, Money, Power, and Wall Street, don’t take my words for it read about on pbs.org Frontline Money,Power, and Wall Street, plus the Dark Side.

        There is always the truth on PBS, i read and watch the show a lot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shirley-Gallagher/100002579722348 Shirley Gallagher

    This is why Mitt Romney never want to talk about his Record as Governor in Massachusetts because its  a mix of accomplishment and failures. Not to mention the American’s who lost their jobs, Benefits and etc, all because of Romney Greed.

    This is why Mitt Romney is always complanning about President Obama  Policies, but he never mention his own.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shirley-Gallagher/100002579722348 Shirley Gallagher

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