Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Daniels' Indiana Dream Not As Big As A California Dream

At the close of Gov. Mitch Daniels' third State of the State address tonight, he took exception to a phrase California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) used in his own State of the State last year. Referring to the often-used phrase the"California Dream", Schwarzenegger observed there isn't an "Illinois Dream" or a "Kentucky Dream" because it was unique to people who had experienced the hope and opportunity only California offered. Daniels insists, in his mind, there is an Indiana Dream in our state's future. Perhaps things are looking better in some respects than they have in recent years, in part because of Daniels' successes in the past two years, but Daniels' plan still falls short in his goal of making Indiana a place where college graduates want to live and work, and where the nation's creative class is drawn.

One thing not missing from Daniels' message tonight was the recognized need for bipartisan cooperation. Daniels took note of something being different about the setting for his speech tonight. Ah yes, House Speaker Pat Bauer (D) had changed seats. "Thanks for watching my back," he joked to Bauer. In the past, there were two ways to get things done, but this year only one way exists Daniels said. "Bipartisan cooperation." "I'm ready if you are," he directed to approving House Democrats.

Daniels, before tackling new challenges, recounted his past successes. He ticked off a list, including: eliminating a $600 million structural deficit, producing the leanest budget in 55 years he claimed; resolving the transportation funding gap without new taxes or new borrowing and with $3.8 billion in the bank earning a half million dollars in interest daily; setting a new record of investment in Indiana, highlighting automotive expansions, including Toyota and Honda; expanding our renewable fuels industry, growing from 1 to 21 ethanol/biodiesel plants in a single year; and telecommunications reform, which is bringing high speed Internet to Indiana's most rural reaches.

Daniels then challenged the legislature to accept his "Agenda for Greatness," which emphasizes better education, better health care, property tax reform and new privately-funded, toll road initiatives. Daniels is committing to support $250 million in new education spending to support full-day kindergarten beginning this fall. He credited the Democrats for first pushing this idea. He similarly credited Democrats for their passionate support for providing health care for the uninsured. The governor previously put forward a plan to offer health insurance for the state's poorest uninsured, financed by a tax on cigarettes of at least 25 cents per pack. He challenged the legislature, however, to think big and consider an even larger cigarette tax increase, noting that $1 billion in annual health care costs is attributable to tobacco use.

Daniels renewed his proposal to privatize the Hoosier Lottery to fund new higher education initiatives, including "Hoosier Hope" scholarships to incentivize the state's high school graduates to get a college degree and stay in Indiana and more money for research to attrack top-level researchers to our universities. Daniels' characterized the privatization of the lottery as analagous to a regulated franchise, public utility or gaming casino, trying to reassure skeptical lawmakers. Along with the lottery privatization, Daniels' renewed his support for building the Illiana Expressway and the Indiana Commerce Connector as privately-financed toll roads. He told lawmakers he welcomed their investigation and development of reasonable terms for accomplishing these goals.

Daniels, as he has in each of his two previous State of the State addresses, called on the legislature to give local governments new home rule taxing authorities, coupled with accountability, to allow them to find new ways of funding local government with less reliance on the property tax. His support for property tax reform seemed deliberately short on details. Daniels tossed in a bone for Indiana's coal industry as well, promoting new and bigger incentives for clean coal technology.

Governor Daniels' speech is notable for what it was missing as much as what it included. Despite growing concern about rising crime, the word "crime" appeared nowhere in the governor's speech, even as House Republicans recently renewed their pledge to support strengthening the state's Truth In Sentencing law to ensure convicted criminals serve more than a small fraction of their actual sentences. And to AI's great disappointment, there was nary a word of support for a hate crimes law. It is ironic that the governor would speak of the Indiana Dream and say nothing about bringing our laws into line with 46 other states to send a message that our state is one of tolerance and inclusion.

Governor Daniels "Indiana Dream" will never be achieved unless he makes a greater effort to improve our state's image as one which respects and encourages cultural diversity. The creative class he dreams of attracting to our state are turned away by our distinctly anti-employee atmosphere. For too long state policies have been business-focused under Republican and Democrat administrations alike. His own administration's bias was self-evident when his Department of Labor's website was revamped to remove helpful aids to employees who've been beaten out of their wages by unscrupulous employers and other such matters. Although he spoke in recent days of supporting an increase in our state's minimum wage law, he said nothing about it in his speech tonight. In fact, I can't recall a single, direct initiative he's undertaken since becoming governor to make Indiana a more favorable environment for employees to live and work. Our state's civil rights law is among the weakest in the country. Why would a talented employee risk starting a career in a state which rewards bad behavior by employers?

As the governor warned in advance, there would be nothing new in tonight's speech, and he was true to his word. In this writer's opinion, the lack of truly fresh ideas was a bit disappointing. His speech did not come across over television as being enthusiastically received by either Democratic or Republican lawmakers, despite his call for bipartisanship. The applause seemed polite, but there weren't any standing ovations or extended applauses. There was a sense of a man standing at the podium who had managed to step on the toes of about just everyone in the room at some time or another. That's not all bad because a lot of them deserved it. Governor Daniels needed to ratchet down his abrasiveness, but I hope he doesn't stop looking for ways to think broader and not just bigger.


Anonymous said...

There will never be a creative class in Indiana like the one the Governor wants because of the hostile environment the GLBT and creative communities experience. A national stir was created a few years ago by an article written by Richard Florida entitled "The Rise of the Creative Class" that determined that a vibrant GLBT and local music culture is necessary to have an active creative community.

With the Hoosier taste for corporate culture and hostility to diversity and tolerance, lack of a hate crimes law, and repeated attempts to outlaw gay marriage, there is no way in hell a creative community can thrive in Indiana.

Creative workers do not find this state livable with good reason and so long as Hoosiers remain hostile to original, creative thinking, they will remain in the dark, with no cultural taste and no future because their more tolerant citizens flee at the first opportunity they get to do so.

Anonymous said...

4:15 is so correct.

Good post, again, Gary.

Mitch continues to harp on the "structural deficit" he "inherited." I've reviewed state budgets. I don't agree with some of the priorities of past administrations, but there was no structural deficit.

He continually uses this hammer as a verbal "gotcha" to Democrats, and it's worn thin.

Just like the motor home, he needs to retire this obsession he has with pummeling Dems on the deficit.

It's aggravating, untrue, and given the Bowen-Orr Property Tax Replacement Credit shell game, extremely disingenuous for any Republican.

He's so gone in 08. And as a side note: I pray daily for the health of the Supreme Court. Hold on, fellas. Help is on the way. You can retire in 09.

And the whole canoe paddle thing was sophomoric. And embarrassing for a Governor.

Anonymous said...

I thought Bauer's hair piece was the worst until I got the top view of Mitch's horrible comb over!

Anonymous said...

My grandfather told me that any man who has a comb over has no problem covering up the truth. Since Mitch has one, I'm going to assume the same about him.

For a man that's so keen on building alternative fuel plants, he seems to have no issue with carving up farms to build new roads. Where is that corn going to grow, Mitch, if there's nothing but roads and development left in this state? He's talking out of both sides of his mouth.

Our college grads are leaving this state, and all the Honda plants in the world are not going to change that fact. Not every Hoosier wants to work in the auto industry.

For every artist that comes here for cheaper studio space, 5 more are leaving for more open and greener pastures.

Yes, states with ocean-views and mountains, more often than not, have a higher cost of living. But as my friends in NYC often point out, they also have the higher salaries to match.

As long as Indiana wants to be entirely white-straight-family-friendly, and loves to dish out the corporate welfare, there will be no rise of the creative class. Creative citizens don't neatly fit into the family-first, pro-corporate paradigm.

Mitch can't handle the truth, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

A creative class exists and is prospering and growing from IUPUI/Wishard/IUSOM to Methodist Hospital along the people mover route. Richard Florida's "water cooler" is alive and well in that neoghborhood. Other places in Indiana are the same and more are on the horizon.

World class research, education, arts, intellectual property creativeness, superb clinical care all coexist in this strip in central Indiana. And recent residential neighborhoods have been born and reborn.

Walk to the theater, work in a lab, visit a museum, exchange ideas, interact with a student... Its all there and growing.

The GBLT and local music are well represented.

I recently attended an outstanding musical event at the Walker Center. The audience was diverse in every respect. ON MLK Day I spent the evening at Attucks and listened to a simply outstanding Vietnamese speaker, son a black US serviceman as well as an 8th grader who belted out a spectacular song.

A few years ago this area was a brownfield.

Anonymous said...

Mitch needs to get a clue on higher education.

Higher Education needs to be held accountable. Four-year public college tuition and fees are up 35 percent from 5 years ago, AFTER adjusting for inflation.

This is financially unsustainable for students and parents. It indicates costs are out of control, there is no oversight or accountability, there is no correlation with return on investment, and that government has no concept of the problem.

College Board Press Release: