SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Election

September 26, 2012

Reflections on Romney

Local, state officials look back on former governor

Last month’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., attempted to showcase the real Mitt Romney for American voters.

In Massachusetts, no such pomp and circumstance is needed.

Local politicians have a very clear picture already of the man who led the state from 2003 to 2007, and not surprisingly, opinions of the former governor change dramatically on party lines.

“He had fortitude and focus. He set his sights on goals and never wavered,” Bruce Tarr, the Republican minority leader in the Massachusetts Senate, said in an interview before the Republican Convention.

“The man has no core, no foundation. There’s nothing to him but ambition, and he has enough money to carry out those ambitions,” said Rep. Ted Speliotis, a Democrat from Danvers.

Republican lawmakers speak of Romney as a tireless worker with strong convictions and a penchant for getting things done, despite inheriting a huge budget deficit and a Legislature controlled by Democrats.

Democrats contend the former governor was distant, disingenuous, and governed with one leg out the door and one eye on higher office.

“A lot of people like myself knew he was only visiting,” said Senate Majority Leader Fred Berry, the second-most powerful senator during the Romney era. “It was really obvious.”

On the budget

Upon taking office in 2003, Romney had to close a budget gap of between $1.7 billion to $3 billion, depending on whom you ask. To fix this, the governor slashed local aid and other spending, dramatically increased fees and closed tax loopholes, but notably did not raise taxes. The state soon had a budget surplus.

“We needed a true leader, someone who could partner with leadership on both sides and come up with a plan to guide us through the economic downturn. He did that,” said Rep. Brad Hill, an Ipswich Republican. “And he didn’t have the federal government bailing us out to the tune of billions of dollars.”

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