Republican Presidential Candidates:
Perspectives on Workforce Development
Until recently, the field of Republican Presidential candidates has been viewed as wide open. It
now appears to party leaders that this will become a two person race between former
Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and current Texas Governor Rick Perry. Minnesota
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is likely to stay in the fray, as is Texas Congressman Ron
Paul. There is much speculation that third and even 4th party candidates may emerge from this
field in the general election.
At this time, Romney is the only candidate who has released a position paper that includes
proposals for workforce development: his Believe in America, Mitt Romney’s Plan for Jobs and
Economic Growth, which was issued on September 6. The other candidates have not issued
proposals specific to workforce development issues. If you have followed the early debates, you
are aware that there has been discussion of economic development and job creation, but the focus
has not been on workforce development.
Below are brief highlights of the views expressed by these four candidates related to workforce
development. This document will be revised as new information becomes available.
Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, 2000–present
Early in his campaign, Governor Perry has focused on his record in creating jobs in Texas during
his tenure as governor. Texas has had robust job growth, even during the recession, and its
economy has overtaken New York to become the second largest in the nation (behind
California.) He has not spoken in any detail on his views related to workforce development
During Perry’s tenure, he has supported increased funding for customized training to support
high growth businesses, and other business services initiatives.
Governor Perry helped launch an industry cluster initiative in 2004 that focuses on advanced
manufacturing, aerospace and defense, biotech and life sciences, information and computer
technology, petroleum refining and chemical products, and energy.
In 2010 he supported the launch of the Texas Back to Work (TBTC) initiative, which is similar
to the Georgia Works initiative that is touted as a model in the Obama jobs plan, but is simpler in
design. TBTW provides subsidized wage reimbursement, retention bonuses, and other
incentives to employers who hire and retain UI recipients. TWBC has had an 80% success rate
in helping unemployed workers obtain and retain jobs.
Recently Texas also implemented a new online job matching service, WorkInTexas.com, to help
match job seekers to jobs. The system is aligned with the industry cluster initiative.
The workforce development system in Texas is unique. Prior to the passage of WIA in 1998,
Texas had implemented an integrated workforce system in 1995 through State legislation. The
Texas model was provided with a blanket waiver in the WIA statute. The Texas Workforce
Development System includes the following state agencies:
Economic Development and Tourism, Office of the Governor
Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Texas Education Agency
Texas Health and Human Services Commission
Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
Texas Veterans Commission
Texas Workforce Commission
Texas Youth Commission
The local workforce boards oversee a broad range of funding that far exceeds the limited funds
available through WIA, including Wagner-Peyser, VETS, TANF, childcare, Food Stamps, older
worker programs, employment-related criminal justice programs, literacy, and more.
Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts, 2003–2007
Mitt Romney has been a successful business executive in addition to his career in politics, and
often touts his business experience as one of his strongest qualifications. He includes specific
proposals for workforce development among the 59 policy proposals included in his Believe in
America report. Here are the highlights:
Eliminate redundant federal workforce programs and consolidate funding streams.
Concentrate funding and services as much as possible in a single program with oversight by a
single federal agency. Retain other programs only where there are unique needs that must be
met by the federal government.
Block grant the consolidated program to States and provide them with flexibility to address
their unique needs. The federal role would be to ensure accountability, not to prescribe
Create Personal Reemployment Accounts (PRA’s, as championed by Emily DeRocco and
Mason Bishop in the Bush Administration) to provide unemployed individuals with control
over funds for retraining. (Note: this is a long running theme in Republican presidential
platforms, “invest in people, not bureaucracies”.)
Encourage the use of PRA’s for OJT to encourage private sector involvement in job training.
Raise the visa caps for highly skilled foreign workers, noting that foreign-born residents with
advanced degrees start companies, create jobs, and drive innovation at an especially high
Offer permanent resident status to eligible student visa holders who graduate from one of our
universities with an advanced degree in math, science, or engineering.
Michele Bachmann, Congresswoman, Minnesota’s 6th District, 2007-present
Michele Bachmann has represented Minnesota’s 6th District, which includes the northern and
eastern suburbs of the Twin Cities, since 2007. She is the first woman elected to the House of
Representatives from Minnesota. She has been closely associated with the Tea Party movement
and has taken a number of controversial positions in her rise to national prominence. She
currently sits on the House Financial Services Committee and the Permanent Select Committee
Her campaign web site includes the following statement: “As the co-owner with my husband of
a small business, I understand what it takes to grow a company and meet a payroll. That’s why as
President, I will work to reverse the current state of affairs by ensuring businesses the resources,
freedom and flexibility to do what they do best: create jobs.
I will lead the way in cutting spending, reducing taxes and deep-sixing our 3.8 million-word
Internal Revenue Code so companies can invest again. As a first order of business, I will direct
the elimination of counterproductive regulations, repeal Obamacare and stop cap-and-trade in its
tracks so companies can operate again. And a Bachmann Administration will create the climate
of sound currency and certainty employers needed to start hiring again.”
Bachmann has advocated for the elimination of the minimum wage as a strategy to reduce
She has likened AmeriCorps to a brainwashing, reeducation program to get young people to
promote government controlled initiatives.
She was a strong opponent of the federal School-to-Work program and subsequent initiatives to
incorporate career education in K-12 education. In her critiques of STW, she included attacks on
workforce boards that would, in collaboration with business interests, funnel children into career
sectors based on political whims.
She is opposed to any initiative that seeks to set standards for States and localities on the basis of
this being “central planning” that robs Americans of fundamental freedoms.
Ron Paul, Congressman, Texas’ 12th District, 1997-present
Ron Paul has served in Congress during three periods and a total of 12 two-year terms: from
1976-77, then from 1979-1985, and from 1997 to today. He is not seeking reelection to the
House in 2012. His district includes the area south and southwest of the Greater Houston area,
including Galveston. He currently serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Joint
Economic Committee, and the House Financial Services Committee. Paul has been considered
to be the “intellectual godfather” of the Tea Party movement and is well known for his libertarian
political ideas that are often at odds with both Republican and Democratic positions. He was the
Libertarian nominee for President in the 1988 election and sought the Republican nomination in
the 2008 election.
Paul is opposed to any federal legislation related to issues that are not expressly authorized by
the Constitution. He endorses eliminating most federal agencies, citing them as unnecessary
bureaucracies. He advocates for States’ rights to regulate social issues not cited in the
He has voted against the authorization of workforce legislation and funding for workforce
programs throughout his career in Congress, although he has co-sponsored and participated in
job fairs held in his District.