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Romney backs right-to-work

Last modified: 8/9/2011 12:00:00 AM
Mitt Romney gave his blessing yesterday to Republican efforts to make New Hampshire a right-to-work state, telling crowds in Concord and Manchester that the labor policy spurs job growth.

Before an event with the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, the Republican presidential candidate said that if he were a voter in the state, he would urge lawmakers and the governor "to do whatever is necessary to make New Hampshire a right-to-work state." Romney said every state should consider adopting the legislation, which bars unions from collecting fees from nonmembers. Over the past decade, he said, states with right-to-work laws have added 3 million jobs while states without such laws have lost 1 million jobs.

"It's pretty clear that those states that have right-to-work legislation are able to add employment," Romney said.

State lawmakers this year passed right-to-work legislation, but Gov. John Lynch vetoed the bill. House Speaker William O'Brien set a date to override the veto but then postponed the vote. New Hampshire House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt said yesterday the "enthusiastic support" from Romney would help the effort to override the veto.

"It's not surprising to me that governor Romney, who has substantial business experience himself, understands the economy, understands how to grow and create jobs, is in favor of right-to-work legislation," Bettencourt said.

State Democrats disputed the conclusion that right-to-work policies improve the climate for job creation, saying federal statistics show New Hampshire has a lower unemployment rate and higher median income than the average in right-to-work states.

In a statement released before Romney's appearance, the president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO charged that the former Massachusetts governor is only now embracing right-to-work in his attempt to win the presidency.

"If governor Romney had once in his tenure as governor of Massachusetts even suggested that his state become a right-to-work for less state, he may have a shred of credibility on this issue," union President Mark MacKenzie said. "But to come into our state and pander to the extremist far right by joining them in attacking middle-class working families here, when he never made it an issue in the state he governed, is unconscionable."

Throughout his appearances yesterday, Romney presented Friday's downgrade of the U.S. credit rating as evidence of failed leadership by President Obama. He asserted that Obama is primarily responsible for the failure of the U.S. economy to "reignite." Romney contrasted the downgrade by the rating agency Standard & Poor's to upgrades in the credit rating of Massachusetts during his time as governor. When the state faced a large deficit, Romney said, he received permission from lawmakers to cut spending and then worked with them on policies to help the economy.

"I'm afraid the president is just out of his depth when it comes to understanding how the private economy works," he said.

Romney also addressed questions raised last week about a $1 million donation to a political action committee supportive of his candidacy. The contribution came from a New York business that reportedly was founded shortly before the contribution and dissolved months later, prompting criticism by Democrats and campaign watchdogs. Edward Conard, a former executive at Bain Capital, the firm co-founded by Romney, identified himself as the donor late last week.

"I think the whole controversy with regards to his contribution sort of disappears when he came forward and said that he was the contributor," Romney said.

He said the donor is a long-term business associate and friend who has donated to past campaigns.

(Karen Langley can be reached at 369-3316 or klangley@cmonitor.com.)


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