Democrats, however, were quick to remind him the so-called landmark reform was a bipartisan effort, promising yesterday to override his late-breaking veto of the bill's $295 employer assessment.
"I'm extremely annoyed," said Rep. Denis E. Guyer, D-Dalton. "(After touting the bill's passage, Romney) turns around and makes vetoes that would gut a majority of the bill. I think he's way off base."
Romney, whose eyes are set on a presidential nomination in 2008, has been touting Massachusetts as the first state to attempt universal health care since the Legislature passed the bill last week.
Romney launched the reform effort last spring, when he filed a bill calling for universal health care. But his plan proposed draining the uncompensated care pool to pay for the reform a detail discarded by the Senate and House in the final bi ll.
Last week, Romney said he planned to study the approved bill for areas he may veto, but he did not outright object to the assessment: the annual $295 per employee to be paid by employers who do not offer health insurance to their workers. Lawmakers have estimated the provision would raise about $45 million in revenue to pay for the plan.
The governor did not propose a plan yesterday to make up that revenue loss.
He did, however, also veto a provision that provides dental insurance to adults on Medicaid.
House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi called the vetoes disingenuous, saying the law was crafted with concessions and compromise.
''To change anything will disturb the delicate balance that made this law possible,'' DiMasi said. ''Each and every element of this law is critical to accomplishing our intentions and goals.''
"He's playing the party game," said Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, adding that he was not personally offended by yesterday's drama.
Pignatelli said dental coverage for Medicaid recipients is crucial. He also supports the employer assessment, because, "we all have to participate in the solving of the health care issue."
"He's going to run for president. To draw the battle lines now after the fact is unfortunate, but he's an opportunist," he added.
|» Romney's health care vetoes|
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney vetoed eight sections of the historic health care bill he signed into law Wednesday. Lawmakers have pledged to override any proposed changes.
Romney said this would give authority to private organizations to make appointments to the Public Health Council, in violation of the separation of powers required by the state constitution.
Romney said this would give MassHealth coverage to so-called ''special status aliens,'' legal immigrants who have come with the sponsorship of an individual who agreed to be financial responsible for them. He said federal coverage for such aliens was eliminated in 1996 under President Clinton, and state law should take into account the financial status of the sponsor to determine if coverage should be made available.
Romney said this provision is unsustainable because it would cost $75 million and would extend to adult Medicaid recipients a dental benefit not provided by 60 percent of employers in Massachusetts. The section also creates a ''wellness program'' for MassHealth enrollees that includes smoking cessation, stroke education and teen pregnancy prevention programs.
Romney said the $295-per-employee assessment on employers who do not offer health insurance is not necessary to finance the health care reform law.
Romney is opposed to two sections which would require a member of the House and Senate to participate in negotiations with federal officials related to the new law. Romney said that wrongly puts legislative controls on the executive branch.
He did, however, acknowledge the governor is eating up the attention and credit.
"If I was in the governor's shoes, I'd be a damn fool to pass it up," he said.
Romney, speaking to reporters after the event, defended his actions.
''There are many businesses who have been flooding my office with calls as well as business associations, that are very concerned about it,'' he said. ''I made it very clear to both the House and Senate that I didn't believe the $295 made sense.''
The Rev. Hurmon Hamilton of the Roxbury Presbyterian Church said there are still big questions left unanswered by the bill. He said the one sour note in the hoopla-drenched event was the lack of poor people invited to the historic hall for the signing.
''What was missing from the picture was poor people and people of color, the diversity of the folks who ultimately will be affected and impacted significantly by the bill,'' he said.
Romney, who has lost many legislative battles in the Democratic-dominated Legislature since becoming governor in 2002, would never have been able to include health care reform on his resume if the Legislature wasn't behind him.
"Unfortunately, when we do the unsexy overriding of the veto, it's not going to be national news," Guyer said.