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Mass. Speaker Hits Mitt Romney On Slow Economic Recovery, Jobs

By Scott Helman

Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi blasted Governor Mitt Romney Tuesday, on the eve of the governor’s final State of the State address, saying that Romney has failed to deliver on his promise to attract jobs to Massachusetts.

DiMasi criticized Romney for the slow pace of economic recovery during his administration and said he hoped the governor would use Wednesday night’s speech to talk about what the state can do better.

“He made us a promise when he first came in, that he wanted to create jobs here in Massachusetts,” DiMasi told reporters after a news conference celebrating new tax incentives for the film industry. “We need to get the economy back. We want to hear from Romney to find out why we haven’t created those jobs.”

When asked if Romney, who won’t seek reelection this fall, will be able to act effectively on the issue in his final year, DiMasi said, “Well, I’d like to hear what did he do when he was here and why didn’t it work and what does he suggest now that he’s leaving?”

By November, Massachusetts had about 20,000 fewer payroll jobs than it had when Romney took office in January 2003, according to the most recent state employment figures. The state is down 171,000 jobs since the number of jobs peaked in February 2001.

As he did Friday at the annual conference of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, Romney often says that the state has added more than 35,000 jobs since the low point in January 2004. But there are signs that the trend may not endure: Massachusetts lost about 13,000 jobs from July to November.

In addition to being a concern in the Bay State, a weak economy could be a political liability for Romney as he looks to trade on his successes as governor in a possible national campaign. Romney, a former corporate chief executive, came to office saying he would be a salesman who would pitch Massachusetts to companies, but Democrats have attacked him for using the state as a target of political jokes before out-of-state Republican audiences.

Romney acknowledges that he is not satisfied with the pace of job creation, but he paints the economy in a positive light and says his administration has turned deficits into surpluses.

“When Governor Romney came into office, the state was losing jobs by the thousands every month,” said Romney communications director Eric Fehrnstrom. “Today we are adding jobs, and the unemployment rate is almost a full point lower [than] it was when we took office. But we have more work to do.”

The unemployment rate when Romney took office was 5.7 percent, compared to 5.8 percent nationally. By November, it was 4.9 percent, compared to 5 percent nationally.

Fehrnstrom said that economic growth has been modest and that significant impediments remain, notably the high cost of housing. He called on the Legislature to pass the economic stimulus plan that Romney filed almost a year ago, which proposed, among other things, a cut in the unemployment insurance rate and new funding to attract companies to Massachusetts.