Carrying an atomic clock which counts down the 368 days left in his 2nd term, Indiana Republican Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana, once considered a likely 2012 Presidential candidate, gave his eighth and final State of the State Address on Tuesday evening. Daniels, perhaps one the most effective governors in the country, is known for his soft spoken, Coolidge-like nature. But last night, Daniels was unusually boastful about the accomplishments of the Hoosier state.
He took credit for the state's solid financial position noting, "While states elsewhere twist in financial agony, Indiana has an honestly balanced budget, a strong, protective reserve in our state savings account, and the first AAA credit rating in state history." He added Indiana's fiscal system is in better health than the Federal leviathan and noted that in numerous magazine rankings, Indiana has "leapfrogged" more states than NASCAR Champion "Tony Stewart at Homestead."
Daniels gave anecdotal evidence that, despite economic hardships throughout the country, many young people are choosing Indiana as the state to move to after college. He noted that today, it takes an average of 14 minutes to get out of a driver's license bureau… which used to take hours. And he listed a number of successes in public-private partnerships, such as in the state's streamlined welfare system and the expanding freeway construction funded by the 75-year lease of Indiana's toll road to an Australian-Spanish consortium for $3.8 billion in 2006, shortly before the bond market crashed.
Daniels noted that in this economic downturn, there is still much more to be done: "It was our ironic bad luck to create a top economic climate just as the nation plunged into its worst modern recession, and business investment slowed to a crawl: We became the prettiest girl in school the year they called off the prom."
Toward the end of his speech, Daniels faced loud boos from Democrats for his support for Right to Work, which uses the authority granted by the Taft-Hartley Act to prevent employees from being required to pay union dues. Twenty-two states currently have a Right to Work law, and Daniels cited recent polling that Indianans support the proposal by a 2-1 margin.
This is a continuation of the battle against unions, which started with Daniels decertifying Indiana public unions through executive order. Since then, the fight has noisily spread to Wisconsin, Ohio, and to other states as they desperately try to reform unsustainable public pension systems. Not only is this a battle for fiscal responsibility and economic freedom, but unions are the largest contributors to pro-Democratic campaign efforts.
However, no matter how the battles over worker's rights flair up, Gov. Daniels reminded us of how tough our politics used to be:
I have a new prized possession. It is a letter, written to his parents by a young clerk named A.B. Carpenter, on February 12, 1861. Amid updates about haircuts, colds, and headaches, young Mr. Carpenter reported the following: "There is… considerable excitement concerning a couple of legislators who went to Kentucky to fight a duel. Mr. Heffern, a Democrat, slandered and abused Mr. Moody, a Republican in a speech and Moody challenged him. He accepted and choosed bowie knives. They went to Kentucky last Friday night and have not been heard from since."
Watch the whole thing here.
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