Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Daniels Fulfilled Promises, Leaving Indiana in a Much Better State

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Daniels Fulfilled Promises, Leaving Indiana in a Much Better State

Article excerpt

In his first State of the State address in 2005, Gov. Mitch Daniels announced, "Our state's public finances are in ruins." Unaware of the coming recession, he made four promises to citizens: To work to strengthen the economy, make government leaner and more efficient, modernize infrastructure and improve public education. On Tuesday, Indiana voters will select Daniels' successor. In most quarters, he's considered a hard act to follow, especially considering the economic downturn that Indiana weathered from 2007 to 2009.

This column surveyed a half dozen leaders in tax and spend policy, business climate, and education reform to grade Daniels' time in office. To a person, they said: Promises delivered.

Daniels doesn't get perfect marks on all agenda items. For example, Aaron Smith of Watchdog Indiana labeled Daniels as "taxpayer unfriendly" for the first three years of his tenure. His first budget included seven property tax increases, he spearheaded a food and beverage tax to pay for Lucas Oil Stadium, he allowed new local option income taxes and he consented to increased pay for state legislators.

Smith echoes Chris Edwards of the free market Cato Institute, who rated the governors on fiscal policy. Edwards gave Daniels a B instead of an A for his "mixed record on taxes" and for caring more about balancing the budget than shrinking government. Edwards says our state government is about the same size now as it was in 2005.

By most measures, government is leaner, said Patrick J. Kiely, president of the Indiana Manufacturers Association, and Kevin Brinegar, president and CEO of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

Indiana is one of about 12 states with a AAA bond rating, a key measure of a state's financial reputation. In one of his first cost- savings acts as governor, Daniels rescinded collective bargaining rights for state employees and drew none of the firestorm that occurred in 2011 when a similar proposal was signed into law by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

State employee numbers, not counting Department of Corrections and welfare caseworkers, "are lower than any time since the 1970s," Brinegar said. …

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