Romney’s Jobs Record Is Best (or Worst)

A campaign ad that praises Mitt Romney’s performance as governor of Massachusetts presents a slanted view of his record on jobs, unemployment and taxes. To every claim, there is a “yes, but” qualifier.

  • The Romney ad claims that as governor, “Romney had the best jobs record in a decade.” Yes — Massachusetts added more net jobs during Romney’s four years in office than during the four-year period of either his predecessor or successor. But — that ignores the national recessions before and after Romney’s time in office. If you look at how Massachusetts stacked up on job creation compared with other states, Romney actually fared worse than his predecessor and successor.
  • The ad claims Romney “reduced unemployment to just 4.7 percent.” Yes — Massachusetts’ unemployment rate went from 5.6 percent to 4.6 percent under Romney. But — the state’s unemployment rate was slightly lower than the national rate when he took office, and was roughly the same as the national rate when he left office.
  • The ad claims Romney “balanced every budget without raising taxes.” Yes — Romney never raised personal income taxes. But — in order to balance the budget, Romney increased government fees by hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Romney ad, called “Strong Leadership,” is another in the campaign’s theme of what would happen on “Day 1″ of a Romney presidency, and it serves as push-back against a recent Obama campaign ad that assailed Romney’s record as governor (an ad we found overreached with several claims).

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Best on Jobs, or Worst?

The Romney ad claims that as governor of Massachusetts, “Romney had the best jobs record in a decade.” Well, best or the worst, depending on how you want to measure it.

The Romney campaign bases its claim on the fact that during Romney’s four years in office, Massachusetts added a net 49,100 jobs (an increase of about 1.5 percent). In the four years under Romney’s predecessor, Republican Jane Swift, the state added 19,000 jobs (an increase of 0.59 percent). In the next four years under Romney’s successor, Democrat Deval Patrick, Massachusetts lost a net 66,400 jobs (a decrease of 2.03 percent).

But that ignores national employment trends that largely drive state employment. In particular, it ignores the national recessions both before and after Romney was in office.

So how did Massachusetts do compared with other states? As the Obama campaign has repeatedly noted, Massachusetts ranked 47th out of 50 states over the entirety of Romney’s four years as governor in terms of job creation. By comparison, Massachusetts ranked 37th in job growth under Swift, and it ranked 10th in Patrick’s first term.

By that measure, Romney had the worst record in a decade.

The Romney campaign has pushed back against that statistic, noting that Massachusetts’ job growth ranking improved year to year under Romney. As we wrote in an item this week when an Obama ad claimed Massachusetts “fell” to 47th under Romney, in the 12 months before he took office, the state ranked 50th in job creation. That ranking remained 50th during Romney’s first year in office, but by his final year, it had improved to 28th.

For details, see our article, “Obama Twists Romney’s Economic Record.” The fact is, both sides are spinning the jobs data to suit their purposes.

Unemployment Tracks National Rate

The ad claims Romney “reduced unemployment to just 4.7 percent.” It’s true, according to unemployment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that the unemployment rate in Massachusetts was 5.6 percent when Romney took office in January 2003, and it was 4.6 percent when he left office in January 2007.

But again, that’s not nearly as impressive when viewed against the nation’s unemployment record at the time. Massachusetts’ unemployment rate was slightly lower than the national unemployment rate of 5.8 percent when Romney took office and was roughly the same as the national rate when he left office.

About Those Fees …

Finally, the ad claims Romney “balanced every budget, without raising taxes.” Massachusetts’ Constitution requires a yearly balanced budget, so the boast isn’t — or shouldn’t be — that Romney balanced the budget every year. Rather, it’s that he did it without raising taxes.

It’s true that Romney never raised personal income taxes as governor. But as we have noted repeatedly, Romney increased government fees by hundreds of millions of dollars, and he also closed loopholes on some corporate taxes (a fact we have noted whenever Romney has claimed he did not raise taxes as governor).

As we wrote in 2007 when Romney was making his first presidential bid, Romney in 2003 doubled fees for court filings (which include marriage licensing fees), professional registrations and firearm licenses. Romney also quintupled the per gallon delivery fee for gasoline. All told, the fees raised more than $400 million in their first year. Romney also “closed loopholes” in the corporate tax structure, a move that generated another $150 million in increased revenue.

In addition, Romney cut aid to local cities and counties. In 2004, Romney cut nearly 5 percent, or about $230 million, from the local aid budget. The Massachusetts Municipal Association, representing the state’s cities and towns, said Romney’s cut “forced communities statewide to cut services and raise local taxes and fees.”

– Robert Farley

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