Change-Wary Hoosiers Break the Mold
Andrea Neal column for release Nov. 4 and thereafter
INDIANAPOLIS –- If one message stands out as defining Mitch Daniels and his quest to be governor, it was this: "Every garden needs weeding at least every 16 years."
On Tuesday, Indiana voters weeded the garden, making Daniels the first Republican governor since Robert D. Orr’s term ended in 1988. As Daniels himself promised in his short and upbeat acceptance speech, big changes, "courageous decisions" are on the way.
Hoosiers don’t usually think much of change. Daniels is the first candidate to beat an incumbent governor since the state Constitution was amended in 1972 to allow governors to seek two consecutive terms. The last two GOP candidates, David McIntosh and Steve Goldsmith, ran on change platforms and were soundly defeated.
Yet Daniels built his campaign around the theme of change. His "Roadmap to an Indiana Comeback" contained specific proposals, not the generalities that typically characterize candidate platforms. For example, Daniels committed to major reform of every state agency, including:
- Removal of Child Protection Services from the Family and Social Services Administration to make it a freestanding agency with direct responsibility for abused and neglected children.
- Reforms at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, including discounted, multi-year vehicle registrations, six-year driver’s’ licenses (instead of the current four-year ones), titling and registration at pre-approved car dealerships and an end to the subsidy of political parties from personalized license plates.
- Innovation at the Department of Correction, which currently exports inmates to other states because it can’t afford to operate some of its own prisons. Daniels wants to hire private companies to operate empty facilities, with expected savings of 15 percent off the cost of publicly-run prisons.
- Elimination of ineffective boards and commissions following a thorough review of the more than 200 such bodies that now exist.
- Performance-based pay for state employees on top of annual cost-of-living adjustments.
Daniels, a former Eli Lilly and Co. executive, sums up his philosophy of change this way: "People in business know that real improvement comes not from working harder at old ways of doing things, but by taking unnecessary work out of the system so you can do the truly essential functions better. There are dozens of innovative things other states have been doing for years that the current administration has never even tried."
Look for Daniels to innovate without being heavy-handed, starting with his relationship with the legislature. He won’t take a passive approach to policymaking; he will be the lead cheerleader for bills he is convinced Indiana needs.
Although he didn’t talk about it much on the campaign trail, daylight-saving time is one of the issues he will push aggressively, using a strategy not unlike his methodical campaign strategy of meeting voters, explaining himself, seeking support.
"People say, ‘ah you’ll never get that done. It’s been talked about for 30 years.’ I say, ‘how do you know? No governor has ever gone out and explained to people, ‘A lot of your neighbors are without jobs and would have them, or would have a better one, if we did this. Here’s how it falls out on this specific business. This isn’t just a matter of your convenience. This is really hurting some of your neighbors.’ Nobody has ever gone to the legislature and said, ‘I want this. So I want you to vote for it. And if you need to blame your vote on me, that’s OK.’ "
This is the MO Daniels will employ as he seeks support for change on any issue.
Abraham Lincoln said, "The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew."
It would be presumptuous to compare Indiana’s economic or budget difficulties to the challenges of Lincoln’s day, but his words seem strikingly relevant to the Indiana of 2005.
Weeding the garden. Innovation. Thinking and acting anew. However you put it, Hoosiers have given Daniels a mandate for change.
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