State Opinion Leaders Applaud Daniels, Say He’s ‘Willing to Spread the Praise’

Published February 1, 2009

“This is a once-in-a-generation politician. Daniels does not have his finger in the wind. He firmly believes good public policy makes good politics. Barack Obama won this state, and Daniels outpolled him by 190,000 votes.

“Daniels has taken tough stances. The Indiana Toll Road lease got only two Democrat votes out of 150 Democrat members of the General Assembly. By the time he was in the home stretch on that, they were breaking ground on [the long-stalled] I-69 [extension from Indianapolis] to Evansville. Also US 31 [in the center of the state] was brought up to interstate standards, eliminating 38 stoplights. He went where no other Indiana governor went before, made a logical case, and people are starting to see the fruits of that. The biggest fruit was the new Honda plant [that opened last November] along I-74 near Greensburg.

“Another important thing he did was hire 800 child protective service workers. When I was reporting in Fort Wayne, we saw way too many child fatalities in domestic situations. Daniels started a Department of Child Services and got money to back up the program. We still have problems, but we are working on it with vigor and commitment.

“Property tax reform could have engulfed this governor. We could have had people marching in streets with torches and pitchforks. He got reform through the legislature in 2008. I thought that was a real hallmark. Afterwards he bent over backward to praise the loyal opposition, and he does that a lot. He is willing to spread the praise.”

— Brian Howey, who has spent 15 years as a newspaper reporter and political writer addressing Indiana and Washington politics.

“In 2005 a reform-minded group of leaders was elected to key leadership roles [in Indiana]. Gov. Daniels won running on reform, change, economic development, and fiscal integrity.

“We adopted the tightest budget in 55 years, with 2 percent increases in spending, most of it in education and child protective services. We are putting Indiana back on sound fiscal footing and making the state an island of fiscal integrity in a sea of deficits and debt. We have a $1.4 billion surplus now as we enter extremely difficult economic times [nationally].

“Medicaid is the fastest-growing element of our state budget. We did take substantial reform measures in 2005 and 2006, approving the privatization of the administration of Medicaid. The governor’s team is putting that administrative privatization plan in around the state. It is a huge undertaking, but it has already resulted in significant cost savings.

“We have completely revamped how we plan for economic development. We have an economic corporation rather than a state bureaucracy. We’ve tackled sacred cows like Daylight Savings Time, [adoption of] which linked us with the rest of the world.

“These were not decisions in the political model of decision making but a model that asked, ‘What do we need to do to secure our future?’ The governor has a unique combination of intellect and leadership to have effected these changes in the first term of his administration. I think another key for him is he has consistently said he’s not running for higher office. This is his job. So he’s been willing to take risks that someone who’s concentrating on another office might not be willing to take.”

— Indiana state Rep. Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis)

“We have had property tax problems here for a couple of cycles, and especially in my district, which was Ground Zero. I saw people taxed out of homes. It was criminal. We addressed the problems. We still have to address the system; we’re not home free yet, but we’re working on it after a string of governors who did not address it.

“The other thing we did that was absolutely huge was balance our budget with no gimmicks, no tricks, no ‘What shell is the pea under?’ games. We had not had a balanced budget nigh on to a decade. Families can’t do that, and governments can’t do that.

“We also rolled out a plan for economic development that made this a great state in which to do business. We understood it is not our role to create jobs. It is our job to create a platform that is conducive to investment.

“We did telecom reform. We have seen lot of private investment come into the state as a result.

“This is a portion of the mindset that Daniels has introduced. He measured performance agency by agency, determined what was the mission, the desired outcome, the goals and tactics and strategies that were needed to be put in place, and then measured outcomes to see if government is giving what we wanted.

“I sit on the mental health commission, and we had hearings last summer. The director of mental health was there, and I asked her if a measure of performance was being carried out. I thought it would be difficult to quantify, [but] she got excited and took off and said ‘Yes, here is how it’s working, here is what we’re doing.’ I was really pleased. We’re better delineating what we’re getting for our money.

“It is a pleasure to serve under Governor Daniels.”

— Indiana state Rep. Cindy Noe (R-Indianapolis).

Steve Stanek ([email protected]) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Budget & Tax News.