The Associated Press
Daniels hands off I-69 baton to Pence
It was perhaps Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ ability to step outside the box, and view challenges without preconceived notions that allowed him to do what seemed nearly impossible eight years ago — push through the construction of Interstate 69 between Evansville and Crane during his two terms in office.
Now that Daniels is leaving the office, his successor, fellow Republican Mike Pence, might benefit from Daniel’s approach. Indeed, it will be up to Pence to see Interstate 69 is completed to Indianapolis — not an easy task, given there is no pot of state money designated for the Bloomington-to-Indianapolis stretch of the long-sought highway.
Daniels faced the same dilemma when he took office eight years ago, but in short order he came up with the Major Moves initiative. The state leased the Indiana Toll Road to a private consortium for $3.8 billion. That money was used to build the Evansville-to-Crane section of I-69, as well as other major projects around the state. But that money is either spent or committed. Traditional means are being used to pay for I-69 from Crane to Bloomington, but it will take a new plan for financing the Bloomington-to-Indianapolis link, and that will be Pence’s responsibility. As we said, he might benefit from considering Daniels’ approach.
“If people will be simply a little bit open-minded to new approaches like this — which I’ve been pointing out for six years, are completely customary in the rest of the world; only in America do we think the only way to build a road is the gas tax — it may not be a complete answer, but that’s got to be part of the answer,” Daniels said in a news story by Courier & Press staff writer Eric Bradner.
Daniels was referring to public-private partnerships and the fact an Ohio River bridge near Louisville will be built with private money that will be repaid through tolls.
Pence agreed a private-public partnership is one of various options that will be considered by a blue-ribbon panel he will appoint to study Indiana’s infrastructure and funding needs. He says he is committed to finishing the Evansville-to-Indianapolis highway.
Pence said, “We’re going to finish that work. We’re going to find out where to do it, we’re going to find out how to do it, but we’re going to do it.”
Meanwhile, the Indiana Department of Transportation is welcoming input from private concerns about how Indiana might complete I-69.
Good. Between Pence and his blue-ribbon panel, INDOT and its open-door policy on ideas, and the example set by Daniels of thinking outside the box, perhaps Indiana will find a way to speed I-69 through Bloomington and on to Martinsville during the Pence administration.
— Evansville Courier & Press
Elected leaders owe us openness in new year
Too often in the region, local government is driven by blind loyalties to party platforms -- void of well-explained analysis by our political leaders regarding the reasoning behind their decisions.
Outgoing Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels saw this on a state and nationwide basis within his own party. Preparing to step down from the governor’s chair after a two-term reign, Daniels recently admonished his party to become more relevant to voters -- not to change the things they genuinely support but to better explain why they support those ideals, issues or platforms.
Heading into 2013, the region’s overwhelming Democratic leadership would do well to adopt its own version of Daniels’ call to action. With the major challenges and changes facing our region in the new year, it is more important than ever for political leaders to avoid back-room political deals and use public forums to discuss all public business.
How often in Northwest Indiana -- particularly Lake County -- have we witnessed votes on important issues that have been preordained with political winks and nods outside of public forums? How often are votes on important policy issues swayed by the direction of the party line rather than true conscience? How often do our elected leaders make true attempts at communicating the reasoning behind their decisions to the public, and how often do we the voters truly hold them accountable?
Consider the issue of a possible local Lake County income tax heading into the new year. The same issue has been carried over into the past few years with no action and little explanation or accountability. It seems clear we need both the cutting of the county’s long, wasteful ways and a new, sensible revenue source to overcome looming fiscal challenges.
But it’s easier for some of our elected leaders -- and certainly more expedient to their reelection campaigns -- to just say no to the concept of a local income tax. They offer little reasoning. What seems clear is that the desire to end government waste is not behind their decision. They are largely the leaders who helped get the county into the fiscal mess it now faces.
So if our leaders oppose an income tax, isn’t it incumbent on them to explain why and offer alternatives? In the new year, it would be nice for some of our leaders to sponsor more public forums -- such as town hall-style meetings -- to explain themselves on these issues, solicit input from the electorate and shoulder some accountability. And it would be equally important for the public -- disgruntled or otherwise -- to participate in such a process or to speak during public comment sections of local government meetings.
Our politicians owe this openness to us -- and we owe it to ourselves to remain engaged in the process.
The Times, Munster
Daniels successful in years as governor
The ambition of any governor should be to turn over to their successor a state that is in far better shape than the one they inherited.
In that respect, Mitch Daniels can say “Mission accomplished” as he prepares to turn over the reins of power to Gov.-elect Mike Pence.
There is no question that Indiana’s fiscal condition is vastly improved over what it was eight years ago.
What is truly remarkable about that statement of fact is that the status was achieved despite a worldwide recession from which many states headed by Daniels’ peers are still trying to recover.
Daniels brought the portfolio of a businessman to the political office he inherited in 2005. He followed business practices in trying to bring the state’s accounting books back into order and establish precedents that would streamline the delivery of services to his constituents.
There were bumps along the road and some out-and-out failures that proved tremendously embarrassing at the time, but Daniels proved not only resilient but willing to adapt and change directions when needed.
His sometimes heavy-handed approach to streamlining the Bureau of Motor Vehicles early in his administration cost him temporary political capital. His aborted early efforts to close small license branches in communities such as Hope and a chain of glitches to a new computer system at the BMV proved to be temporary embarrassments.
Given time, the bureau and its customers did adjust to the modernization efforts, and service is now provided in a much more timely and efficient manner.
His goal of privatizing the state’s welfare system also got off to an awful start. But here, too, time and Daniels’ willingness to change worked in his favor. A change in vendors and systems has served to dim memories of the initial undertaking.
There can be no quibbling about the state’s fiscal condition. While many states have had to come to grips with mind-boggling deficits that were only exacerbated by the recession that started in 2008, Indiana has remained on sound financial footing. Daniels was able to work with the General Assembly in crafting budgets that were based on economic realities and the state has maintained a surplus and been able to fortify a rainy day fund. The process has been painful to a number of institutions. But because of Daniels’ adherence to sound financial principals, Indiana is far better positioned to deal with future downturns and capitalize on coming opportunities.
Some of the credit for that sound financial footing can be attributed to the governor’s controversial decision to lease the Indiana Toll Road, an action that bolstered the state’s treasury by billions of dollars.
A portion of that money has been invested, but much of it has gone into a long-neglected road building and maintenance program. Here in Columbus, money made available from that lease project made it possible for the National Road expansion project to be advanced in the construction pipeline.
It also cleared the way for the beginning of meaningful construction on the long-awaited Interstate 69 project.
These were only a sampling of Mitch Daniels’ successes over the past eight years. He did make mistakes and he certainly stepped on a number of toes, but he brought some much-needed change to a state where tough decisions were often passed from one governor to another.
After all, it was during his administration that Indiana joined most of the rest of the country in adhering to the daylight saving time schedule. He was the right man for Indiana at precisely the right time.
The Republic, Columbus
The business of transparency in Indiana’s job count
When the Indiana General Assembly convenes in a few days, it should put on a fast track legislation that would make the Indiana Economic Development Corp.’s deal-making with private businesses far more transparent.
The bill, introduced by state Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, would require companies that receive tax incentives to report how many jobs they actually create each year. The public would have access to that information under open-records laws.
As it stands, the IEDC, which was created in 2005 to replace the Department of Commerce, operates as a quasi-government agency with the authority to make deals that include tax breaks and other public-financed incentives. But it’s also exempted by law from having to disclose important details surrounding those deals based on the argument that sharing such information with the public might hinder the state’s ability to attract new businesses.
That’s not an illegitimate concern in a state that desperately needs to diversify its economic base and to attract better-paying jobs. Yet, transparency in government -- and with it accountability -- shouldn’t be pushed aside easily.
And legitimate questions have been raised from multiple sources about just how many jobs have actually been created -- rather than merely promised -- through the work of the IEDC.
It’s not only in the public’s best interests to know the reality behind job-creation claims, but it could be to state and local officials’ benefit as well. If the jobs number are real, and can be documented publicly, then let’s press forward hard and fast in the current direction. For now, however, state leaders are essentially asking Hoosiers to trust that the reported numbers are accurate, without independent verification.
Yes, Indiana needs more jobs, and better jobs. But there’s no good reason to believe that job creation can’t occur in concert with transparency and accountability.
— The Indianapolis Star