By Mark Waite
Two legislators from Massachusetts, the state’s House Majority Leader Ronald Mariano and Steven Walsh, chairman of the committee on health care financing, flew to Las Vegas last week, then made a side trip to Nye County Democratic Party headquarters to debunk some of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s rhetoric.
Both politicians worked with Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts. They acted as pundits after last Thursday’s presidential debate.
“When Mitt Romney was elected, he really was elected because of his debating skills. He was running against a woman who was not as experienced and as articulate as he was,” Mariano said. “He’s a debater. He’s a person who will say anything and do anything to get elected. We’ve seen that act when he ran against Ted Kennedy for the Senate; he was pro choice. Now he’s moved back from that position because he knew he couldn’t get the nomination if he came out and said he was pro choice. This is a consistent pattern with this guy.”
Mariano laughed at Romney’s statement he was able to work with Democrats across the aisle, what Romney cited as a major difference between the Massachusetts health care bill, or Romneycare, and Obamacare.
“I was chairman of financial services, which is the second most powerful committee behind Ways and Means. We dealt with banks, insurance, all the money-generating institutions in Massachusetts. I didn’t meet the guy, never talked to him until two years into his term. So if that’s reaching across the aisle, he’s redefined it. You know we didn’t see that sense of cooperation,” he said.
But Romney did indeed meet with Democratic leaders on Mondays while governor — it was a tradition that began three governors before him, Mariano said.
“One of the reasons why we got on a plane and came out here is because we wanted to let people know what this guy is really about. The fact of the matter is he will say anything and it’s troubling to us. We got hoodwinked. We don’t want to see the country get hoodwinked. He came out of nowhere. There was a question whether or not he was even a resident of Massachusetts,” he said.
Walsh said Romney made the statement in the debate he’s for coal.
“One of the first things he did as governor of Massachusetts is tried to shut down the Salem Power Plant, which is a clean coal plant. It actually allows people in the northeast part of Massachusetts, the poor people, to get heat in winter,” Walsh said.
During the Oct. 3 debate with President Obama, Romney also said Massachusetts had the No.1 educational system in the country.
“That may be true, but not under him. He cut education funding. He cut our local aid, which cut our police, our fire and our education when he was the governor of Massachusetts. We had to override those vetoes,” Walsh said.
He said Romney out-sourced some state government jobs to India.
“He left a billion dollar deficit when he left and he left the working families of our state crushed. It’s taken us probably six years to bounce back and recover,” he said.
Mariano said the Massachusetts economy was robust with a life sciences and biotech industry. But when the economy tanked, Romney raised fees and licenses by $750 million, which increased the tax burden for the average Massachusetts taxpayer by $1,200, he said.
“Obamacare is based on what we did in Massachusetts, the exact same thing. We have 98 percent coverage; 98 percent of the residents in Massachusetts have health insurance. What do you have in Nevada?” Mariano asked.
If the Republican’s Medicare voucher plan passes, Walsh predicts community hospitals will be in deep trouble.
“Your level of care will go down and you won’t have too many community hospitals any more,” he said.
Pahrump and Tonopah residents are served by community hospitals.
Walsh said Obamacare moves the leverage away from insurance companies and gives it to a patient and their doctor, not a third party that takes 10 percent off the top and has no medical experience. Now Massachusetts is working on cost containment to bring health care costs down by making common sense decisions. He said they’re also providing more disclosure to patients online, through their website: <a href=mahealthconnector.org.
>mahealthconnector.org” Walsh asked rhetorically.
Mariano said Massachusetts began studying a health care plan because the state had a free health care bill of $1.1 billion in the budget every year, emergency care that went to people who could afford health insurance but didn’t buy it. When Romney signed the bill, it was real pomp and circumstance, with a drum and bugle corps and a giant signing ceremony, said Mariano, who was on the conference committee for the Massachusetts health care bill in 2006.
“In order to cut programs, he was going to say ‘is this program worth borrowing from China for,’ which I just find so hypocritical. This is a guy that has his money in trusts and investments that is investing in the economy of China as we speak and now he holds this out as some symbolic stick he’s going to measure everything by,” Mariano said.
He predicted Romney’s advantage in the first debate will only be a temporary bump in the polls.
“People are too smart. When you start to throw the details of his plan out, they don’t add up. It just doesn’t work and I think his candidacy is going to go by the wayside,” Mariano said.
Walsh called Romney, “a devil in a Boy Scout uniform.” While Obama will win Massachusetts, states like Nevada are critical, he said.