Willard Mitt Romney was sworn in as the 70th Governor of Massachusetts on January 2, 2003, along with Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey. His term ended on January 4, 2007. He filed the papers establishing his exploratory presidential commmittee the day before leaving office.
The legislature amended Romney's plan, adding a Medicaid expansion for children and imposing an assessment on firms with 11 or more workers who do not offer health coverage. The assessment is intended to equalize the contributions to the free care pool from employers that offer and do not offer coverage. The General Court also rejected Romney's provision allowing high-deductible health plans.
Romney vetoed eight sections of the health care legislation, including a $295-per-person fee on businesses with 11 employees or more that do not provide health insurance. Romney also vetoed provisions providing dental and eyeglass benefits to poor residents on the Medicaid program, and providing health coverage to senior and disabled legal immigrants not eligible for federal Medicaid. However, the state legislature overrode all of the vetoes.
During Romney's tenure as governor, Massachusetts' per capita funding for public higher education decreased from $158 to $137, and in national rank, per capita state expenditures changed from 48th to 47th. In July 2005, Romney proposed $200 million in funding for University of Massachusetts capital projects. The governor's capital budget included $50 million earmarked to repair the crumbling parking garage and foundation of the UMass Boston campus. The Massachusetts legislature declined to vote on the bond bill needed to fund the projects. Romney also vetoed a retroactive pay raise for unionized employees of state and community colleges. Romney voiced his opposition to retroactive pay increases for public employees although the raises had previously been agreed to then vetoed by his predecessor.
Romney successfully pressured William Bulger to resign as President of the University of Massachusetts (UMass) on September 1, 2003. Bulger said that his resignation was the result of "a calculated political assault" on him, largely by the governor. William Bulger came under pressure from Romney and others to resign after he invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify when he was subpoenaed by a Congressional committee to testify about his brother, James J. Bulger, aka Whitey Bulger, one of the FBI's ten most wanted fugitives. Romney, who had called for Bulger's resignation and the elimination of the UMass presidency as a cost-cutting move, denied that he had been personally targeting the former state senate president. "The decision was not a political calculation or a personal one," Romney said in February 2003, after unveiling his plan to eliminate the president's job. The Governor's aides stressed that he had not been personally targeting Bulger, saying such interpretations of Romney's actions were cynical. "I think everybody should be taken at their word," spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said.
On September 5, 2006, Romney denounced Harvard University of Cambridge, Massachusetts for inviting former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami to speak at the school. Romney ordered all state agencies to boycott the visit by refusing to provide state police escorts and other service typically given to former heads of state.
Upon entering office, Romney faced a $3 billion deficit. Facing an immediate fiscal shortfall, the governor asked the state legislature for emergency powers to make "9C" cuts to the fiscal year 2003 budget. Romney cut spending and restructured state government. Romney, in concert with the legislature, created new fees, doubled fees for court filings, professional regulations, marriage licenses, and firearm licenses, and increased fees for many state licenses and services. In all 33 new fees were created, and 57 fees were increased, some that had not been adjusted in over a decade. Some of these fees included were service fees, such as charging businesses more to put up signs. The state of Massachusetts raised $501 million in new income in the first year of the fee increase program, more than any other state in the nation that year (New York was second with $367 million. Nine other states raised fees and fines by more than $100 million). Romney increased the state gasoline delivery fee by 2 cents per gallon, generating about $60 million per year in additional revenue; raises the state gas tax to a total of 23 cents, compared to the national average of 28.6 cents per gallon.
Romney also advocated a “New Market Tax Credit” and an “Investment Tax Credit” during 2003 .
A windfall in capital gains tax revenue caused by a previously enacted capital gains tax increase reduced the deficit by $1.3 billion. Romney approved $128 million in tax changes such as sales tax from purchases on the Internet and raised another $181 million in additional business taxes in the next two years; businesses called these changes tax increases, but Romney defended them as the elimination of "loopholes." The state also cut spending by $1.6 billion, including $700 million in reductions in state aid to cities and towns. In response, cities and towns became more reliant on local revenue to pay for municipal services and schools. This had the effect of causing property taxes to rise by 5%, their highest level in 25 years in Massachusetts. In 2005, Romney signed legislation allowing local commercial property taxes to be raised, which resulted in $100 million more in property taxes from local business owners.
In 2002, the state passed a capital gains tax increase that was scheduled to take effect on May 1 of that year. A taxpayers' group challenged the law in court, arguing that a tax increase must take effect at the beginning or end of a year, and in 2005 the Supreme Judicial Court ruled in their favor. The court held that the tax increase was effective beginning January 1, 2002, which effectively imposed an additional $200 million in "retroactive" state taxes on gains realized during the first four months of 2002. In response, the state legislature passed a bill moving the effective date of the tax increase to January 1, 2003. Romney signed the legislation and praised the legislature for its actions.
Massachusetts finished 2004 with a $700 million surplus and 2005 with a $500 million surplus. Romney would state, “We have successfully closed the largest deficit in our state’s history without raising taxes,” although others disputed the claim on the grounds that usage fees had gone up.
With the help of a reviving economy, Romney and the state legislature were able to balance the state budget and replenish the state's "rainy day fund" through government consolidation and reform. As a result of the fiscal turnaround, Romney repeatedly pushed the state legislature to roll back the state income tax from 5.3% to 5.0% (Massachusetts has a flat income tax). He also proposed a “tax-free shopping day”, a property tax relief for Seniors, and a manufacturing tax credit.
In 2006, the Massachusetts legislature approved a budget that required spending $450 million from the rainy day fund. Even though the state had collected a record-breaking amount of tax revenue in the fiscal year, the funds were needed to cover the increased spending. Romney vetoed the transfer of funds from the contingency account and used his emergency “9C” cuts to balance the state budget. "One of the primary responsibilities of government is keeping the books balanced," said Romney "The problem here is not revenues; the problem is overspending. The level of spending which we're looking at would put us on the same road to financial crisis and ruin that our commonwealth has been down before.
Upon leaving office, Romney argued that he had left the state with a large budget surplus, after he cut hundreds of millions of dollars of programs. However, successor Governor Deval Patrick said there would be a $1 billion deficit if existing service levels are carried over into the next year's budget. It would be Patrick who would propose the spending level of that budget. The state and local tax burden in Massachusetts increased from 10 percent to 10.6 percent of per capita income during Romney's governorship, according to analysis by the Tax Foundation.
On June 2, 2006, Romney sent a letter to each member of the U.S. Senate urging them to vote in favor of the Marriage Protection Amendment. In the letter, Romney stated that the debate over same-sex unions is not a discussion about "tolerance", but rather a "debate about the purpose of the institution of marriage". Romney wrote, "Attaching the word marriage to the association of same-sex individuals mistakenly presumes that marriage is principally a matter of adult benefits and adult rights. In fact, marriage is principally about the nurturing and development of children. And the successful development of children is critical to the preservation and success of our nation."
Romney's letter was his second effort to persuade the U.S. Senate to pass the Defense of Marriage Amendment. On June 22, 2004 he testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, urging its members to protect the traditional definition of marriage. "Marriage is not an evolving paradigm," said Romney, "but is a fundamental and universal social institution that bears a real and substantial relation to the public health, safety, morals, and general welfare of all of the people of Massachusetts.
Romney attempted to block implementation of the decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that legalized same-sex marriage in 2003. Romney criticized the decision as harming the rights of children:
They viewed marriage as an institution principally designed for adults. Adults are who they saw. Adults stood before them in the courtroom. And so they thought of adult rights, equal rights for adults…Marriage is also for children. In fact, marriage is principally for the nurturing and development of children. The children of America have the right to have a father and a mother.
In 2004, the Massachusetts General Court addressed the issue of gay marriage before the implementation of the Goodridge decision. During a constitutional convention, the predominately Democratic legislature approved an amendment that would have banned gay marriage and established civil unions. An initial amendment offered by House Speaker Thomas Finnernan to merely ban gay marriage without a provision for civil unions was narrowly defeated. The compromise amendment needed to be approved in a second constitutional convention to be held a year later before it could appear on a state election ballot. The amendment was voted down in the subsequent convention and never appeared on a ballot put before voters of Massachusetts.
Romney reluctantly backed the compromise amendment, viewing it as the only feasible way to ban gay marriage in Massachusetts. "If the question is, 'Do you support gay marriage or civil unions?' I'd say neither," Romney said of the amendment. "If they said you have to have one or the other, that Massachusetts is going to have one or the other, then I'd rather have civil unions than gay marriage. But I'd rather have neither.
In June 2005, Romney abandoned his support for the compromise amendment, stating that the amendment confused voters who oppose both gay marriage and civil unions. The amendment was defeated in the General Court (legislature) in 2005 when both supporters of same-sex marriage and opponents of civil unions voted against it. In June 2005, Romney endorsed a petition effort led by the Coalition for Marriage & Family that would ban gay marriage and make no provisions for civil unions. Backed by the signatures of 170,000 Massachusetts residents the new amendment was certified as a valid referendum on September 7, 2005 by Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly. The measure needs the approval of fifty legislators in two consecutive sessions of the Massachusetts General Court to be placed on the ballot. The Massachusetts legislature however declined to vote on the initiative in two consecutive sessions held on July 12, 2006 and November 9, 2006. Romney responded by joining former Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn and eight others to file a complaint with the state's Supreme Judicial Court to force the legislature to vote on the proposed amendment. The petition also asked the court to instruct the Massachusetts Secretary of State to place the referendum on the 2008 ballot if the legislature failed to vote on the amendment by January 2, 2007.
On the first day that same-sex marriages came into effect in Massachusetts, May 17, 2004, Romney instructed town clerks not to issue marriage licenses to out-of-state gay couples, except for those announcing their intention to relocate to the Commonwealth by requiring the enforcement of the "1913 law" (General Legislation, Part II, Title III, Chapter. 207 (Certain Marriages Prohibited), Sections 11, 12, & 13), which prohibits non-residents from marrying in Massachusetts if the marriage would be void in their home state. The law had not been enforced for several decades. Some legal experts have argued that the original purpose of the legislation was to block interracial marriages and have noted that the law was enacted due to a public scandal over Jack Johnson's interracial marriages. Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly has stated that there in no evidence to support that claim. Those who agree with him claim that the law is meant to respect the laws of other states and has not been enforced simply because there was not reason.
The Massachusetts legislature in 1913 passed the three laws denying marriage rights to persons domiciled out-of-state who came to Massachusetts to circumvent their own states' anti-miscegenation marriage laws. Romney was criticized for reviving a Jim Crow era piece of legislation that had avoided being nullifed by the U.S. Supreme Court's 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision due to it not saying anything about race. However, in March 2006, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court declared the statute legal under the state's constitution. Romney declared the "ruling is an important victory for traditional marriage". He also stated, "It would have been wrong for the Supreme Judicial Court to impose its mistaken view of marriage on the rest of the country. The continuing threat of the judicial redefinition of marriage, here and in several other states, is why I believe that the best and most reliable way to preserve the institution of marriage is to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Romney subsequently released a statement in support of a proposed amendment to the Massachusetts state constitution defining marriage as existing only between "one man and one woman" in order to overrule the court's decision. His statement said, "the people of Massachusetts should not be excluded from a decision as fundamental to our society as the definition of marriage."
When he ran for governor in 2002, Romney declared his opposition to both same-sex marriage and civil unions. "Call me old fashioned, but I don't support gay marriage nor do I support civil union," said Romney in an October 2002 gubernatorial debate. He also voiced support for basic domestic partnership benefits for gay couples. Romney won the endorsement of the Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts, a Republican gay-rights group, who in 2005 accused him of reneging on his 2002 campaign commitment to support some benefits for gay couples. He also opposed an amendment, then before the General Court, that would have banned same-sex marriage and outlawed all domestic partnership benefits for gay couples. When campaigning in 2002, Romney's stated position was that "All citizens deserve equal rights, regardless of their sexual orientation. While he does not support gay marriage, Mitt Romney believes domestic partnership status should be recognized in a way that includes the potential for health benefits and rights of survivorship.
During his 1994 campaign against Senator Edward Kennedy, Romney said that same-sex marriage "is not appropriate at this time" and pointed out that marriage was regulated under the jurisdiction of state laws. He also said his voice, as a Republican, would carry more weight on lesbian and gay issues than Kennedy's, even if they took the same position on issues like allowing gays and lesbians in the military. When seeking the campaign support of the Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts, he said, “We must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern”. He also supported federal legislation that would prohibit discrimination in the workplace against homosexuals.
Defending himself against "flip-flopping" in a telephone interview on Instapundit.com's "The Glenn & Helen Show", Romney asserted he had fought discrimination. In response to a question about his 1994 Senate race debate with Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Romney dismissed his pro-choice stance and described it as a youthful indiscretion. At the end of the interview Romney stated, "And I'm proud that at the same time I've fought discrimination. I believe that each American deserves equal opportunity. Now that's my record and maybe that's why people on this side are dredging up 13-year old history and attacking me now".
There are many documented examples of Romney saying he was not "pro-life". For instance, prior to his run for governor, Romney told a newspaper in Salt Lake City that he did not want to be classified as a "pro-choice" politician.. Also, during the 2002 governor's race, Romney's platform stated, "As Governor, Mitt Romney would protect the current pro-choice status quo in Massachusetts. No law would change. The choice to have an abortion is a deeply personal one. Women should be free to choose based on their own beliefs, not the government's." Romney promised to "preserve and protect a woman's right to choose" and declared "I will not change any provisions in Massachusetts' pro-choice laws".
Romney has said that his views on abortion have "evolved" and "changed" since 2002 such that he now considers himself a "pro-life governor" who wishes "the laws of our nation could reflect that view".
Romney says that his views on abortion were drastically altered on November 9, 2004 after discussing stem cell research with Douglas Melton, a stem cell researcher at Harvard University. The Harvard Stem Cell Institute was planning research that would have involved therapeutic cloning. The Governor says that Melton declared that the research "is not a moral issue because we kill the embryos at 14 days." "I looked over at Beth Myers, my chief of staff, and we both had exactly the same reaction, which is it just hit us hard," recalled Romney "And as they walked out, I said, ‘Beth, we have cheapened the sanctity of life by virtue of the Roe v. Wade mentality.’ And from that point forward, I said to the people of Massachusetts, ‘I will continue to honor what I pledged to you, but I prefer to call myself pro-life.’ Melton disputes Romney's account of the meeting, declaring "Governor Romney has mischaracterized my position; we didn't discuss killing or anything related to it ... I explained my work to him, told him about my deeply held respect for life, and explained that my work focuses on improving the lives of those suffering from debilitating diseases." In a press conference video in May 2005 however, Romney when asked about Massachusetts abortion laws stated "I have indicated that as governor, I am absolutely committed to my promise to maintain the status quo with regards to laws relating to abortion and choice, and so far I've been able to successfully do that," indicating that the governor continued to hold a pro-choice position post-November 2004.
In 1994, Romney also said that although he was personally opposed to abortion, he decided that abortion should be legal after a family friend died during an illegal abortion. The death convinced him that "regardless of one's beliefs about choice, you would hope it would be safe and legal".
"Many years ago, I had a dear, close family relative that was very close to me who passed away from an illegal abortion," Romney said in a televised debate opposite Senator Edward Kennedy. "It is since that time my mother and my family have been committed to the belief that we can believe as we want, but we will not force our beliefs on others on that matter. And you will not see me wavering on that." The person Romney was referring to was a teenage girl engaged to marry a member of Romney's extended family. Romney's sister Jane has said that the girl's death changed the family's perspective on the legality of abortion.
Romney has said he has kept his campaign promises. Romney vetoed an emergency contraception bill in July 2005, claiming that allowing it to pass into law would violate his "moratorium" on changes to the abortion laws.
In 2005, Romney's top political strategist, Michael Murphy, told the National Review that the Governor had "been a pro-life Mormon faking it as a pro-choice friendly. Murphy later clarified explained that he "was discussing a characterization the governor's critics use.
In a November 3, 2006 press release, Romney stated that the account that funds the insurance benefits created in the “Welcome Home Bill” faced a deficit of $64,000. The Massachusetts legislature was out of session at the time of the shortfall. According to the press release, Romney transferred money from the governor’s office budget to cover the deficit.
Working with the legislature, Romney developed legislation to provide tax exemptions to disabled veterans and benefits to families of fallen and missing soldiers. Romney signed the Massachusetts Military Enhanced Relief Individual Tax (MERIT) Plan into law on August 14, 2006. The bill increases property tax exemptions for disabled veterans and grants spouses of veterans killed or missing in action since September 11, 2001 full property tax exemptions for five years. After five years the spouses receive an annual $2,500 exemption under the legislation.
Romney was also the first governor in Massachusetts history to appoint a secretary of veteran’s affairs to his cabinet.
Romney’s efforts to assist Massachusetts servicemen were recognized by the Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve, which presented him with the Pro Patria Award and the 2006 Secretary of Defense Employer Freedom Award.
In July 2006, the legislature passed a bill increasing the minimum wage to $8.00 an hour, and he vetoed it. "I have spent hours reading a wide array of reviews on the minimum wage and its impact on the economy, and there's no question raising the minimum wage excessively causes a loss of jobs, and the loss of jobs is at the entry level," said Romney when he vetoed the bill. He proposed an increase to $7.00/hour (which represented a 25 cents an hour increase over the existing rate.) The legislature voted on July 31, 2006 to override his veto (uanimously in the Senate) thus setting the minimum wage at the higher amount.
On December 2, 2006, it was reported that a landscaping company Romney contracted to perform yard work at his home had been suspected of employing illegal immigrants. Romney said that he was unaware of the immigration status of the company's employees. A year later it was revealed that the same company was still using illegal immigrants to work on Romney's estate. After this second backlash, Romney fired the landscape company.
Later in December 2006, Romney signed an agreement with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency that would have allowed Massachusetts State Police troopers to arrest and seek deportation of suspected illegal immigrants they encounter over the course of their normal duties. Under the terms of the agreement, a group of 30 troopers would have received specialized training allowing them to question and detain suspected illegals, charge them with a violation of immigration law and place them in removal proceedings.
The executive order pertaining to state police was consistent with Section 287(g) of federal immigration law. Section 287(g) is a program of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 that deputizes state and local law enforcement personnel to enforce immigration matters.
The agreement was never implemented because governor-elect Deval Patrick, who had expressed strong opposition to the agreement before it was signed, revoked it a month later when he was sworn in.
In November 2006, Romney cut $7 million from the maintenance budget for the state's parklands, which are the sixth largest state park system in the country. Romney also cut $154,590 for environmental law enforcement, $288,900 for cleaner water in communities, and $181,886 for hazardous waste cleanup.. In a 2004 press release Romney claimed, "Costs are down, but environmental enforcement is up".
Romney opposed the Cape Wind offshore wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound. Romney stated that the proposed Cape Wind project would depress property values and damage the local economy, which depends on tourism; he has described the area as pristine and a "national treasure". Cape Wind supporters accused Romney and federal lawmakers of "back-door deal-making" in an attempt to kill the project. Conversely, elected leaders in Massachusetts have accused Cape Wind developers of receiving a "back-room deal" for the 24 square miles of state controlled property to be used in the proposed project. However, Romney voiced support for wind projects in Princeton, Hull and other Massachusetts towns.
In August 2006, Romney unveiled an energy plan that called for improved energy-efficiency requirements for state buildings, increased use of biofuels in the state automobile fleet, the creation of a prize-rewards lottery for consumers who buy energy-efficient equipment, and proposals for wind and biomass power-generation for state facilities.
On December 19, 2005 the Massachusetts Board of Registration of Hazardous Waste Site Cleanup Professionals convened and discussed a public records request for communications between the Board and “Willard (Mitt) Romney”. The board released documents pertaining to the appointment of board members by the governor, and "No one could think of any other categories of records.
Following the discovery of leaks in the I-93 tunnel, Romney called for the resignation of Matthew Amorello, the Chairman and CEO of the Turnpike Authority. Amorello refused to resign and in June 2005, Romney asked the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to grant him the authority to fire Amorello. The request was denied, as the court declined to hear his case. In July 2006 a woman was killed when a section of the I-90 roof collapsed on her car. Citing continued mismanagement of the project, Romney once again called for Amorello's dismissal and initiated legal proceedings to oust the chairman. Despite calls from Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly, House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, Senate President Robert Travaglini, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, the chairman of both the house and senate transportation committees and the editorial boards of the Boston Globe and Herald, Amorello once again refused to step aside. Romney responded by filing emergency legislation to wrest control of the inspection of the Big Dig tunnel system from the Turnpike Authority. The Massachusetts State Legislature overwhelmingly approved the legislation, which Romney signed on July 14 2006. The Department of Transportation began immediate inspections of the I-90 tunnel and pledged a "stem to stern" review of the entire Big Dig Tunnel System. Meanwhile, Romney continued his effort to fire Amorello. He scheduled a termination hearing for the Chairman for July 27 2006. Facing increasing pressure from associates and colleagues, Amorello resigned, effective August 16 2006, one and a half hours before the hearing was to take place. "A new era of reform and accountability at the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority has begun," said Romney after receiving the resignation. "Patronage will be replaced by professionalism, and secrecy will be replaced by openness." Romney has pledged a "nationwide" search for a replacement to lead the Turnpike Authority and the Big Dig.
Since the collapse, the Securities and Exchange Commission has informally investigated whether Massachusetts Turnpike Authority bonds misled investors. The SEC has requested documents relating to the Big Dig from the Turnpike Authority, the state Treasurer's office, the highway department and the governor's executive transportation office.
In 2006, his last year as governor, Romney spent all or part of 212 days out of state, laying the foundation for his anticipated presidential campaign. The cost of the Governor's security detail for out-of-state trips increased from $63,874 in fiscal year 2005 to a cost of $103,365 in the first 11 months of fiscal year 2006. Romney's use of state troopers for security during his campaign trips was criticized by former Governor Michael Dukakis, who never traveled with state troopers during his 1988 presidential run, and Mary Boyle of Common Cause who complained that "[t]he people of Massachusetts are essentially funding his presidential campaign, whether they like it or not." A Romney spokesman noted that Romney did not accept a salary while he was Governor and that he paid for his personal and political travel, while the superintendent of the State Police pointed out that the Governor never requested the security and that the security detail followed the Governor on all trips. In some cases his statements made while campaigning elsewhere in the country came back to affect him in Massachusetts, such as when he caused offense by using the term "tar baby" in Iowa in reference to the potential pitfalls of taking responsibility for the Big Dig.
|The Romney Cabinet|
|Governor||Mitt Romney||2003 2007|
|Lt. Governor||Kerry Healey||2003 2007|
|Commonwealth Development||Andrew Gottlieb||2006 2007|
|Transportation*||John Cogliano||2005 2007|
|Housing & Community Development*||Jane Wallis Gumble||1996 2007|
|Environmental Affairs*||Robert W. Golledge, Jr.||2006 2007|
|Economic Development||Ranch C. Kimball||2007|
|Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation**||Janice S. Tatarka||2006 2007|
|Business & Technology**||Deborah Shufrin||2006 2007|
|Workforce Development**||Jane C. Edmonds||2007|
|Health and Human Services||Timothy R. Murphy||2005 2007|
|Elder Affairs||Jennifer Davis Carey||2007|
|Labor||Gayl Mileszko||2006 2007|
|Administration & Finance||Thomas Trimarco||2005 2007|
|Veterans' Services||Thomas G. Kelley||2003 2007|
|Public Safety & Homeland Security||Edward A. Flynn||2003 2006|
* reports to Commonwealth Development
** reports to Economic Development