> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers; Distributed by The Associated Press
Gov. Daniels set high fiscal bar for successor to meet
Unlike Mitch Daniels eight years ago, the next governor of Indiana will inherit nothing like the mess that awaited Daniels. Daniels, a Republican and former White House budget chief, was about to assume a $600 million deficit built up under Democratic governors and a Democratic House of Representatives. In fact, the state even owed more than the $600 million, having deferred payments to schools and to local governments. Indeed, Indiana government was in a state of stagnation.
Fast-forward to the current gubernatorial election, which finds Republican Congressman Mike Pence, former Democratic Indiana Speaker of the House John Gregg and reality television celebrity Rupert Boneham, the Libertarian candidate, vying to succeed Daniels. The winner will face difficulties, but nothing as challenging as the deficit Democrats left for Daniels.
It was announced recently Indiana has ended the fiscal year with an extra $2.1 billion in hand. That’s remarkable, considering where Indiana came from while weathering the national recession. It is difficult to direct credit anywhere other than to Daniels, who stubbornly insisted on unpopular spending cuts.
Even today, Indiana Democrats are critical of Daniels’ fiscal discipline. A report in the Evansville Courier & Press this past week credited Democrats with saying that some of the money in the surplus should have been spent enhancing state services instead of providing tax credits.
Those credits, $100 each, will be given back to taxpayers as a credit on their income taxes next spring, another program championed by Daniels.
But the Democrats continue on. ... Indiana House Minority Leader B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, said the surplus has been built by an administration devoted to hoarding tax dollars instead of “spending them on programs and services for the people.”
Bauer said the savings don’t mean much when families have to pay fees to make sure their children get a proper education.
It is true that Daniels has asked numerous state agencies to cut spending. The surplus was the result not only of those cuts, but also of some agencies returning money to the general fund.
It won’t be easy for the next governor, who will have to decide how to fund infrastructure improvements.
So the question for gubernatorial candidates is, which approach will they take when they assume responsibility for state government? Will the winner follow Daniels’ tight fiscal strategy, listen to Bauer and put money back into programs cut by Daniels, or will he choose a middle path? Their answers are of vital importance to Indiana voters.
— Evansville Courier & Press