March 18, 2011


Will Daniels Step Up to Meet America's Challenges? (Mark Salter, 3/18/11, RCP)

Mitch Daniels has been an exceptional governor; a penny pinching fiscal hawk, and a reformer unafraid of criticism. He views government as a monopoly that's indifferent to its customers' interests, but still essential to creating the conditions, the public infrastructure, that will, as he told the New York Times, "enable and facilitate the flourishing of private life."

His Whig's sensibility about the role of government seems to me the best response to the Democrat's criticism that Republicans' reflexive distrust of government prevents them from governing effectively. And his reforms have been conceived and implemented to transplant to government agencies some of the accountability and efficiencies that businesses must accept to survive in a competitive free market.

Daniels assesses the success or failure of his reforms by their results; by the benefits they provide to Indiana. That is an uncontroversial measurement in most professions, except government, where a policy's failure to improve appreciably the problem it was intended to address is often used to secure an increased appropriation.

According to the Weekly Standard's Andrew Ferguson, at the inception of his administration, Daniels instructed his agency heads to emulate business and "pursue a single organizational goal" -- raising the net disposable income of Indianans. To that end, he has weathered without losing his nerve severe criticism of some of his reforms, and abandoned others when they failed to produce the results he anticipated. It's a rare politician who has the fortitude to hold himself accountable to the standards he imposes on others.

The results have been impressive. Indiana had a $200 million deficit when Daniels took office. He balanced the budget, paid off the state's debts, and Indiana had a $1.3 billion surplus when the recession began and was well positioned to survive the fall-off in revenues that have roiled politics in other states. Unemployment in Indiana remains high, but the state is adding new jobs at one of the fastest rates in the country. Property taxes have been lowered under Daniels' tenure by an average of 30 percent. Indiana is one of only nine states to enjoy a triple-A bond rating.

He leased a toll road that had suffered years of incompetent government management to a foreign consortium, over widespread and vociferous public opposition, for $3.8 billion dollars. He used the money to clear a huge backlog of road construction projects and pay for additional improvements. He increased access to heath insurance for thousands of low income families by supporting health savings accounts.

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Posted by at March 18, 2011 7:42 PM

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