In his first State of the State address in 2005, Gov. Mitch Daniels announced, “Our state’s public finances are in ruins.” Unaware of the coming recession, he made four promises to citizens: To work to strengthen the economy, make government leaner and more efficient, modernize infrastructure and improve public education.
Today, Indiana voters will select Daniels’ successor. In most quarters, he’s considered a hard act to follow, especially considering the economic downturn that Indiana weathered from 2007 to 2009.
This column surveyed a half-dozen leaders in tax and spend policy, business climate, and education reform to grade Daniels’ time in office. To a person, they said: Promises delivered.
Daniels doesn’t get perfect marks on all agenda items. For example, Aaron Smith of Watchdog Indiana labeled Daniels as “taxpayer unfriendly” for the first three years of his tenure. His first budget included 7 property tax increases, he spearheaded a food and beverage tax to pay for Lucas Oil Stadium, he allowed new local option income taxes, and he consented to increased pay for state legislators.