Milton Bass: Romney's forgettable term as governor

Sunday October 21, 2012


Have the Democrats gotten their mojo back? Did Joe Biden do his job as the exorcist? Did the president compensate for his laxness? Is Michelle Obama looking a bit rejuvenated? Election day will tell.

But the thing that has reverberated with me since the vice presidential debates is that a Democrat finally reacted on a national forum to the Republican claim that Mitt Romney did an outstanding job when he was governor of Massachusetts. Romney also has been clamoring that he left Massachusetts a big surplus for the future, made our schools No. 1 in the whole nation and cut taxes 19 times.

Romney took over the governor's office in 2003 with ideas of Bainizing the legislature, which was 87 percent Democratic. He wanted to do the same for state schools of higher learning and sensibly convert the various transportation departments into one administrative body.

He was going to bring in new businesses to be run by thousands of new workers. During his administration, unemployment dropped less than one percentage point in four years.

The legislature agreed with him that the health and human services departments were redundant and his efforts were rewarded by saving something under $7 million a year. He announced plans to reform the civil service and the pension systems but the only major thing that came out of that was Romneycare, and in that he made a Democratic vision into a reality.

On the whole, Romney id not have the personal skills to persuade the Democratic majority to follow his leads. It was the same as what President Obama got from the Republican House. Despite Romney's exper ience and good manners, the legislature neither trusted nor liked him.

Romney responded by vetoing bills at an inordinate rate, twice what Gov. Bill Weld had done before him. Some of them deserved to be vetoed as they were little more than veteran Democrats taking care of their buddies. One of his aides said many of the vetoes provided "chuckles" as they pondered how best to drop the bomb. There was one little hitch; the legislature kept overriding his vetoes.

In 2004, Romney had it up to here with Democrats and spent $3 million of Republican funds to back any willing GOP candidates for office. This annoyed the Democrats, who upped their own pressure. The Republicans lost seats at a record pace.

The one thing going for him in 2003 was education when fourth and eighth graders throughout the commonwealth took top national honors in reading and mathematics. Detractors, however, said the impetus for the high honors had been started by former Gov. Weld 10 years before and it took that time to accomplish the win. As for the 19 tax cuts he brags about, many were one-day sales tax holidays.

His top booboos occurred in 2003 and 2004 when he deeply cut local aid, forcing towns to save where they could, especially on education funding. He froze state aid for local school construction plans and left them to figure it out on their own. Instead of raising taxes, he doubled down on fees for everything from licensing cosmetologists to programs for college students. That's how you get away with not raising taxes.

It is obvious from the above that Massachusetts gave Romney the opportunity to think that if he could get away with this stuff in Massachusetts he had the stuff to go higher and bigger and better.


What happened in the vice presidential debate was missed by most listeners, including the professional journalists.

REP. RYAN: "Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts when 87 per cent of the legislators he served with were Democrats. He didn't demonize them. He didn't demagogue them. He met with those party leaders every week. He reached across the aisle. He didn't compromise principles. He balanced the budget four times. He balanced the budget four times without raising taxes."

V. P. BIDEN: "And you saw what happened?"

REP. RYAN: "He found common ground and balanced the budget."

V. P. BIDEN: You saw what? If he did such a great job in Massachusetts, why isn't he even contesting Massachusetts?"

Paul Ryan mumbled something inaudible and moderator Raddatz changed the subject.

Sic transit gloria Romney.

MIilton Bass is a regular Eagle contributor.


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