“My friends in Ohio are fighting to defend crucial reforms that the state has put in place to limit the power of union bosses and keep taxes low,” Romney wrote on his Facebook page in June.
“I stand with John R. Kasich and Ohio’s leaders as they take on this important fight to get control of government spending. Please visit www.BetterOhio.org for more information.”
Mitt Romney stepped into the middle of the charged battle over organized labor in Ohio on Tuesday, but he avoided weighing in on the contentious legislation that would dramatically limit the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions.
After being questioned by reporters about his position on Senate Bill 5, which would severely limit collective bargaining rights for public employees, Romney declined to comment, reports CNN.
“I am not speaking about the particular ballot issues,” Romney said, only after repeated questions from reporters.
“Those are up to the people of Ohio. But I certainly support the efforts of the governor to reign in the scale of government. I am not terribly familiar with the two ballot initiatives. But I am certainly supportive of the Republican Party’s efforts here.”
The former Massachusetts governor may have been hesitant to weigh in because of the other major ballot measure Ohio voters will vote on next month: an initiative to bar local, state and the federal government from compelling individuals or employers to purchase health care coverage.
He attacked the National Labor Relations Board for holding up the construction of a Boeing facility in South Carolina and trashed union-backed “card check” legislation.
“There is a lot of spirit in this room, and I want to salute that spirit and the volunteerism that is gathered here to take back America,” Romney said. “If I am fortunate enough to be the nominee, I intend to win Ohio with your help.”
Meanwhile, the Republican-backed union legislation remains deeply unpopular in the state, which is all but certain to be a swing state once again in 2012.
It’s not that surprising Romney was hesitant to endorse S.B. 5; the legislation is deeply unpopular and it appears likely it will be repealed at the statewide referendum on Nov. 8. A poll released Tuesday found that 57 percent of Ohio voters want to repeal the legislation, while only 32 percent want to uphold it.
Republicans have jumped on his refusal to weigh in as instance of flip-flopping. Rick Perry wasted no time pouncing on Romney’s comments, and reaffirming his unwavering support of the legislation.
“As a true conservative, I stand with Gov. Kasich in promoting S.B.5 for fiscal responsibility and job creation in Ohio,” Perry said. “Gov. Kasich and the Republican leadership of Ohio are to be commended for their efforts.”
Added Perry, “My record as a pro-jobs governor is clear and you don’t have to wonder where I stand.”
The battle over union rights is reaching broiling temperatures as the date of the referendum vote draws close. Supporters and opponents of the bill have been waging a full-scale war to win votes, spending millions on advertising. [via Huff Post, Politico and CNN]