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January 27, 2007--Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney spoke at the National Review Institute's Conservative Summit.  (more photos)

Among other topics, he  recounted some of the challenges he faced in bringing a businesslike approach to running the government in the Commonwealth:

I came into office, and talking about data, I was there for oh a few months and I turned to my chief of staff and I said I haven't got the reports yet.  Why haven't I got my reports.  And she said, what reports?  I said well you know the ones that show how many employees we have in the state, how many people are in prison, how many have been let out, how many members of the state police we have, how many buildings we have, cash flow, how much tax dollars.  She said, well there aren't any reports like that.  I said well then get me the reports that my cabinet secretaries get and I'll review those.  "They don't get reports either."  And she said they have all the data in the world.  Anything you want we can get, but regular reports that measure how we're doing, we don't have that.

I was there not very long and I got a sheet of paper with the proposed capital budget for the next year, with all the major capital projects.  And at the top of the list was a new court house for Worcester, Mass.  We spend $1.2 billion a year on capital projects in our state, and the first on my list was the Worcester Court House for $250 million.  And I looked at it and there was no particular analysis as to why it was necessary.  What was the rate of return?  What was the net present value?  What was the cash flow.  It just wasn't there.  It was just we need a new court house.  And I talked to my Secretary of Administration and Finance and I said well what's the justification?  He said well these court houses in the state were built in the 1940s, 1950s, some of them 1930s and they're dilapidated and they need to be replaced.  I said how many have we got because at $250 a clip this could get expensive.  And he said well I don't really know.   And he was new like me so he, I said well go find out. 

Now I did a little calculation.  Our state, Massachusetts, is a very small state and, geographically, and I said if you properly located the court houses you could place six court houses in such a way that everybody could get to a court house within an hour, which seemed about right.  And I said let's double that --make it 12 courthouses. 

We have 112 courthouses.  Because government doesn't think about how do we get efficient and cost effective, but instead says how can we make sure that every legislator has a court house in their district so the campaign workers can be security guards or assistant clerks and so forth after the campaign is over.  Data, analysis, efficiency--things I was used to in the private sector indeed were sometimes rare in the government sector.

...set out a clear postion on tax increases:
By the way, I saw Grover Norquist here, I'm proud to be, I think I'm the first person who's thinking about an '08 race, who's signed his "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" not to raise taxes, and that's easy.  I've been living that.  By the way, we do need to make those Bush tax cuts permanent. 
...and discussed his stance on abortion:
Now on abortion I wasn't always a Ronald Reagan conservative.  Neither was Ronald Reagan by the way.  But like him I learned with experience, and in my case the point where that experience came most to bear was with regards to learning about stem cell research.  Let me tell you there are so many different ways of getting stem cells and you know that, and I was delving into that because my legislature was proposing new legislation which redefined when life began.  And I think it's interesting that a legislature thinks it has the capacity to make that determination.  Our state always said that life began at conception, but they were now going to redefine when life began. 

And so I spent some time going through learning--and by the way with a number of people in this room who had helped, about all the different types of sources of stem cells.  Not only adult stem cells and umbilical stem cells and stem cells from existing lines, but also surplus embryos from in vitro fertilization, and I supported by the way, those, all of those.  But then for me there was a bright line, when you started creating new life for the purpose of destruction and experimentation.  And so that was somatic cell nuclear transfer or cloning and also what's known as embryo farming. 

And at one point I was sitting down with the head of the stem cell research department at Harvard and the provost of Harvard University and they were explaining these techniques to me, and I somehow imagined in my mind this embryo farming.  Embryo farming is taking donor sperm and donor eggs and putting them together in a laboratory and creating a new embryo.  And if that's not creating life, I don't know what is.  And I imagined just row after row after row of racks of these either by a cloning process or by this farming process.  And at that point one of the two gentlemen said, Governor there's really not a moral issue at stake here.  And he said because we destroy the embryos at 14 days.  And I have to tell you that that comment and that perspective hit me very hard.  And as he left the room with his colleague, I turned to Beth Myers, my chief of staff, and said I want to make it real clear.  We have so cheapened the value and sanctity of human life in our society that someone can think there's not a moral issue because we kill human embryos at 14 days. 

So shortly thereafter I announced that I was firmly pro-life. Now you don't have to take my word for it by the way, because the nice thing about being able to watch a governor is you don't have to just look at what they say, you can look at what they've done.  And over my term I had about four or five different measures that came to my desk and every single one of them I came down on the side of respecting human life.

Romney for President Exploratory Committee
Copyright © 2007  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action