Sunday, September 11, 2011

Part V: How Mitt Romney Turned A $3 Billion Deficit Into A $2 Billion Surplus

One of the untold yet impressive stories of Mitt Romney's success as a political leader is how he transformed a small state that was in debt to a state with surplus in only in four years. I will first give a financial overview of Mitt Romney's record and then go into depth and explore his record in detail. Lets look at how Mitt Romney made a wonderful turnaround on Massachusetts.  
A Brief Financial Overview of The Romney Administration (2003-2007): From Debt To Surplus 
Getting the state in financial shape was an absolute priority for Mitt Romney. When Mitt entered into office in 2003, he was a left with a massive deficit of approximately $3 billion. However, he was able to balance the state budget for each year of his administration and got the state out of debt by implementing a mixture of aggressive reduction in the size and cost of government along with bold strategies to spur economic growth.

By 2005, Mitt Romney had a budget surplus of $1 billion and by the time he left office in 2007, he left the state had a $ 2 billion surplus.
The Financial Picture On Mitt's First Day In Office
In order to understand how Mitt a $3 Billion deficit into a $2 Billion surplus for the state of Massachusetts, we have to understand what the financial picture looked like on the very day he assumed the office of Governor.

When Mitt Romney walked into the Governor's office on January 2, 2003, the state's financial health was not looking good:
Assuming office midway in the fiscal year, Romney's team inherited a fiscal meltdown requiring immediate steps to close a potential $650 million shortfall. Worse, budget writers for the incoming governor discovered the projected deficit for the following year was exploding - from $2 billion to $3 billion in a $23-billion budget.
Now that we know what the financial picture looked like on the first day Mitt Romney took office, let take a chronological tour of how Mitt brought the state back to financial health.
In order to confront the immediate problem of the state's shortfall of $650 million, Romney had to act fast and petitioned the state legislature for help
Upon first taking office in 2003, Romney got the legislature to give him emergency powers to cut spending without their permission and, if elected president, he has said he will ask Congress to give him authority not to spend all the money they authorize in the federal budget.
What powers did Congress give to Romney?
Under the measure, Romney can reduce funding for any state program, except for the 14 percent of the state budget which supports constitutional officers, the Legislature, inspector general, comptroller and the judicial branch and debt service.
The expanded fiscal authority, which extends through June 30, gives the governor the power to reduce the $5.5 billion set aside for local aid and the $950 million for public higher education, which includes the University, state college and community college systems.
Mitt Romney then proposed a $22.858 billion spending plan for Fiscal Year 2004 which introduced major spending cuts and a restructuring of government to make it more lean and efficient.

18 months later, during the summer of 2004, Mitt Romney had some good news for the state of Massachusetts; the spending plan he proposed worked. He announced that by the end of the fiscal year of 2004, the state would have a surplus of approximately $500 million dollars. However, when the final figures came out in the fall of 2004, the surplus was actually $724 million with a total of $1.2 billion in reserves.

Mitt Romney also announced his budget plan for the Fiscial year of 2005 with $22.402 billion in spending plans and which kept the state budget's in balanced without raising taxes. Mitt Romney also used his veto power to reject $108.5 million in earmarks proposed by the Democratically controlled Congress. 

Now that the state was out of the red and into the black, the Democratically state controlled Congress wanted to go on a spending spree by dipping into the rainy day fund. Mitt Romney used his veto power limit their spending binge. He also enacted a stimulus plan focus on revitalizing the state's infrastructure with a supplemental spending bill costing the state around $439 Million. As a reward for reducing the cost of administering food stamps, making the distribution of those stamps faster and more efficient, the Federal Government awarded the state of Massachusetts $1.25 million award for getting food stamps to needy families more quickly than any other state in the nation.

In January of 2005, Mitt Romney began the new year by instituting welfare reform which required recipients to go back to work. He also proposed a $23.22 billion spending plan, reduced the income tax from 5.3%. to 5% and filed a 93.7 supplemental spending bill to fill up the money that was used for snow and ice removal. In March, Standard & Poor’s raised the state’s credit rating one notch, from "AA-" to “AA”.This was good financial news since it has impact on the interest rates the states pays for its bonds. The change in credit rating also helped to improve the financial health of Massachusetts. By 2005, the state had a surplus of nearly $1 billion.

Mitt Romney proposed a $25.19 billion budget for the fiscal year of 2007 and announced that the state was projected to have a surplus of $2.3 billion in its rainy day funds which is the highest level in state history. Mitt's aggressive style of reducing spending, maintaining fiscal responsibility, administrative and structural reforms helped the state rake in $1.924 Billion in January alone and got a total in $10.385 billion in year to date collections which broke the state's record in collecting revenue.

Having spent the previous two years nursing the state's budget from red to black, Mitt Romney decided to go ahead with welfare reform. Having a budget surplus of $1 billion in 2005 allowed Mitt Romney to confidently to unveil his health care plan in 2006.When Mitt Romney introduced his health care plan on Beacon Hill, he made sure that his proposal wouldn't undermine all his hard work of whipping the state into financial shape.

Thus, when his plan was presented, it was estimated to cost less than 1.5% of the state budget.

In fact, the common complain that RomneyCare has ruined the state financially is simply not true. In 2009, Mitt Romney explained how his healthcare plan stayed within the budget and helped Massachusetts save money:
"The plan that I proposed was a “break even” plan, meaning it didn’t cost the state any additional funding. The legislature decided to make it a more generous plan than the one that I proposed, and as a result the cost which they forecast for this last fiscal year was $725 million, as I recall. The forecast for next year is about $723 million, so it’s pretty much on plan. The net cost to the state is about $350 million." 
In July, he proposed a $25.249 billion budget and reduced spending by $573 million in the form of vetoes to keep the state's budget in the black. The linked article makes the following note:
"With Romney’s vetoes, the growth from FY 06 to FY 07 is kept at 5.6 percent, as opposed to 7.5 percent under the Legislature’s budget." 
Later that year in November, Mitt Romney withheld $450 million from the Democratically controlled congress after they transfered that money from the rainy day fund with the intent on spending the rainy day savings.

The Financial Picture At The End Of Romney's Term In 2007
As explained above, when Mitt Romney left the Governor's office at Beacon Hill, he left the state with a $2 Billion surplus for the state. And that is an impressive turnaround.

The Financial Picture After Mitt Romney Left Office
In order get a full picture of Mitt Romney's record, you'd have to see what the state is like after he left. And the picture isn't very pretty. Governor Patrick Deval has taken Mitt Romney's surplus and squandered it.  Massachusetts is now back in debt with a $1 Billion state deficit and potentially facing a 1.5 or 2 billion dollar deficit. What's even more amazing is that Governor Deval has been receiving $7 billion in federal stimulus funds for the las two years and Massachusetts is on the fast track to being $2 billion in debt in the near future. When that happens, Govenor Duval will have taken the state back to the same level of debt before Mitt Romney became Governor of Massachusetts. What Duval has done hasn't improved the state financially but regressed back to the same old problems.

That is a very clear indication of poor financial leadership.

 In fact, his spending is so outrageous since he blew money on himself and his staff which made the citizens of the state very unhappy. Thanks to Deval Patrick's leadership, Massachusetts is in debt. And what's his solution to fix the problem? More spending
Getting out of debt requires discipline of reigning in spending. Most states don't have a revenue problem. They have a spending problem. And the facts are clear that Mitt Romney fought with a state congress that was controlled by Democrats on reigning in spending and preventing them from raiding the rainy day fund when there was a surplus in the state's treasury.  It clearly demonstrates that Mitt Romney doesn't play games when it comes keeping government financially healthy.

However, Mitt Romney's impressive record of getting the state out of debt is even impressive when you look at the before and after pictures. Before Mitt Romney came to office, the state's debt was $3 billion dollars and now its $1 billion dollars since he's left. The $2 billion surplus that is tucked in between two episodes of major debt demonstrates that Mitt Romney was a unique leader in Massachusetts' financial history. It provides a nice comparison and contrast which helps show how capable and effective Romney is when it comes to financial responsibility.

And this amazing story of Mitt Romney's record in reining in government debt is important to keep in mind for 2012 given Obama's record, or lack thereof, in controlling spending.

However, Mitt Romney's ability to turn Massachusetts's $3 Billion debt into a $2 Billion surplus is not the only impressive accomplishment of his singe term of that state. Tomorrow, we will take a look at Mitt Romney's record on taxes and fees.


  1. As a life long resident of Utah I was always against the Olympics of any kind, as they always leave the host with a 25-30 year debt legacy.
    The Salt Lake City olympics were well on their way to being a repeat.
    I believed no one could help, then along comes Romney, one would have never thought he could have taken an Olympiad rife with corruption, sponsors leaving the scene of an accident and Olympic officials on the dole, into the world spot light during the aftermath of 9/11 and make it work.
    Not only did he do that, he also made it the Only Olympic games summer or winter to leave a host City, Salt Lake, with 100 million in the bank, first Olympics in history to do that.
    My take on that was when he leaves and goes home to Massachussets, the people there are not smart enough to elect him as their Governor, Iwas wrong.
    Now I am wondering if the Republicans are smart enough to get out of their own way and make him our candidate, and the next president of this country thats in trouble.

  2. Interesting read, but i do think your analysis fails on at least one point. What was economic trends like from 2003-2006? Surely, if anyone is likely to have produced green digits at any time during the last decades, it will likely have been during these years. Romney left 2007, at the beginning of the economical crisis. The interesting question is not wether or not Romneys record was good, but rather if he would have been able to defend it during the crisis. Do we have reasons to think he would have done better than Deval, or reasons to believe that Deval would have done worse than Romney during the 2003-2006 years?

    If the year of 2007-2008 can be compared to the year of 2004-2005, your conclusions hold. Now, obviously, economy doesnt work this way.

  3. A man who believes Joseph Smith is a Prophet is too stupid to be President of the United States.


    1. Mitt Romney earned a joint JD and MBA from Harvard University, turned a $3 billion deficit into a $2 billion surplus, saved the 2002 Winter Olympics from debt and made it the most profitable Olympic event, and was able to beat all the other Republican contenders in this election to become the Republican nomination.

      Mitt Romney isn't stupid. He's quiet intelligent. Moreover, many intelligent people believe in religions that have very difficult to believe stories about men who have lived in the past.

    2. You're too stupid to judge someone on one thing alone. I bet you voted for Obama because he was black. Point in case.

  4. Today it was posted that Massachusetts has a $116 Million surplus, no $2-3B deficits here! And its being deposited to the rainy day fund by a Democratic Governor and Democratic Congress. As a lifelong resident of Massachusetts I know it was funny accounting measures not compliant with GAAP that got us that much of a surplus.

    Knowledge is power.