The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

September 1, 2012

As Mass. governor, Romney took tough welfare line

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BOSTON (AP) — Mitt Romney, hoping to draw a sharp contrast on welfare, is citing a disputed charge that President Barack Obama is giving recipients a free ride, and he can point to his own record of pushing for tighter rules.

Romney, Massachusetts governor from 2003 to 2007, fought to require single parents with children as young as a year old to work to get welfare benefits if they could obtain state-subsidized child care. He opposed efforts to allow time spent in job training or education programs to count toward the state's 20-hour weekly work requirement for welfare recipients, and pushed for a five-year lifetime limit on welfare benefits.

At the time, Massachusetts was one of only five states without a lifetime limit, instead allowing welfare recipients to claim benefits two years out of every five-year period.

Despite his tougher stand, Romney also tried to shield welfare benefits from budget cuts as the state struggled with sinking revenues.

"There are a number of areas where I feel significant cuts would be too difficult on such short notice. I did not cut welfare payments," Romney said in a televised address in 2003 explaining his state budget proposal after just four weeks on the job. "In fact, the majority of state programs for the poor and elderly were not touched."

As the GOP presidential nominee, Romney has been criticized for shifting his position on everything from abortion and embryonic stem cell research to health care. But his stand on welfare has remained relatively constant.

Despite his record as governor, his campaign has come under increasing criticism for leveling what Democrats and many independent fact-checkers say are dubious charges against Obama.

Romney's campaign alleges in remarks and TV ads that Obama is loosening welfare restrictions by ending a provision that requires welfare recipients to work. Romney has told voters again and again he'd restore the work requirement to the federal program.

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