Spending Went Up and Down in Massachusetts Under Romney

By Matt Cover | August 16, 2011 | 1:11 PM EDT

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

(CNSNews.com) -- Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) both raised and cut spending as governor from 2003-2007, a fact that former GOP presidential contender Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.) criticized.

At the Fox News-Washington Examiner debate on Aug. 11, Romney, who was Massachusetts’ governor in 2003-2007, said, “I went to the legislature and I said I want expanded powers to unilaterally be able to cut spending -- not just slow the rate of growth -- but to cut spending, and they gave it to me and I did. We cut spending. Every single year I was governor we balanced the budget.”

At the same debate, Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor who has since dropped out of the presidential race, said that Romney had run up spending 40 percent while running Massachusetts.

“Mitt ran up spending in his watch as governor 40-plus percent over his nearly four years,” said Pawlenty. “That’s not going to contrast very well with the president.”

However, Romney’s record on spending is not as clear cut as that, according to data from the non-partisan Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MBPC), a state think tank.

That data show total state spending under Romney by fiscal year, in billions of dollars adjusted for inflation, as follows:

FY 2003 $34,028,300

FY 2004 $34,876,943

FY 2005 $34,259,972

FY 2006 $33,887,009

FY 2007 $35,321,649

Spending went up in fiscal years 2004 and 2007 under Romney, but it went down in fiscal years 2003, 2005 and 2006. (Spending in FY 2002 was $35.42 billion.) Also, the budgets were balanced every year Romney was in office.

Massachusetts’ fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30. When Romney became governor in January 2003, half of that fiscal year was already over; when he left office in January 2007, the latter half of that fiscal year was still unfinished.

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty spoke at the Cato Institute on May 25, 2011 about how he would trim the federal workforce and rein in pay and benefits for public employees if elected. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr

The budget cuts Romney made in FY 2003 equaled $343 million, combined with an increase in administrative fees to balance a projected $650 million deficit.

Spending went up to $34.87 billion in FY2004 but fell in FY 2005 to $34.25 billion. Spending also fell in FY 2006 to $33.88 billion.

In his final year in office – FY 2007 – state spending rose again to $35.3 billion. However, Romney was only governor for the first half of that fiscal year.

Overall, spending in inflation-adjusted dollars went up under Romney while spending went down in certain specific years.

According to the Club for Growth, most of Romney’s spending cuts were overturned by the liberal-dominated Massachusetts legislature, meaning that while Romney himself often used a line-item veto and budget reduction authority to reduce spending, his Democratic opponents in the state legislature often overturned his efforts and reinstated some spending.

“The Massachusetts Legislature was (and continues to be) dominated by Democrats more interested in raising taxes than cutting government programs. Throughout his tenure, Romney’s proposed cuts were met with opposition while the vast majority of his vetoes were relegated to the graveyard of overrides,” the report says.

Romney attempted to close unused courthouses, merge duplicative transportation-related state agencies, and decentralize government management of the University of Massachusetts. These proposals, along with many others, were rejected by the state legislature, according to the Club for Growth’s report.

“Some of his more ambitious proposals were rejected by his über-liberal Legislature,” according to the Club for Growth. “These include: his plans to overhaul the wasteful Boston Municipal Court and close underused courthouses; merge the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority with the Highway Department; decentralize management of the University of Massachusetts; streamline the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission; and phase out the obsolete Worcester State Hospital where employees outnumber patients nearly 3 to 1.”

Other Romney spending cuts had more success, including a 2006 effort to cut $425 million using emergency budget authority.

However, state spending also increased in the final year of Romney’s governorship.

“While there is no question that Governor Romney’s initial fiscal discipline slacked off in the second half of his term, on balance, he imposed some much-needed fiscal discipline on a very liberal Massachusetts Legislature,” said the Club for Growth.

Massachusetts’ state spending did rise on Romney’s watch, especially in his final fiscal year 2007 budget, which proposed a 10 percent spending increase over fiscal year 2006.

Pawlenty’s claim of a 40 percent spending increase may refer to the increase in Massachusetts’ general fund spending, which rose from $19.4 billion in fiscal year 2003 to $27 billion in fiscal year 2007. However, Romney was not governor for all of FY2007 nor was he governor for all of FY2003. Further, nearly half of that increase -- $5.8 billion – came in FY2007, when Romney was only governor for six months.