Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Quick Reaction to State of the State

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels just finished his second State of the State address. Here is an instant Libertarian response:

Governor Daniels repeatedly touted the bold initiatives undertaken in his first year, but in reality, these moves were splashy and not substantial. Moreover, the most stunning of his moves were carefully omitted from his speech.

Daniels spoke of the many ways Indiana government was made more efficient. He cited a litany of savings, all of which are excellent and very well appreciated.

But that the efficiencies were the best to be bragged on of the first year points to the troubling realization that beneath it all, the Governor is every bit as committed to big government as his Democratic predecessors were.

No departments were cut. In fact, departments were added. The budget wasn't reduced. In fact, it grew. Indeed, the Governor never called for an actual budget cut. All Daniels called for was greater efficiencies. Great that he delivered, but too bad he under-promised.

The boldest, most substantial thing a man knicknamed "The Blade" could have done to help restore fiscal sanity to Indiana would have been to urge at least a 1% reduction in the budget. Instead, he urged a 1% hike in income taxes on the wealthiest Hoosiers. In the first year under Daniels' watch, spending continued to climb, but at a slower rate than before. It's progress, I guess, but not nearly as strident as the Governor's tone would have led one to believe, and certainly not indicative of a deep commitment to smaller government and lower taxes.

Daniels urged the legislature to allow Indiana municipalities greater ability to manage their finances. With so few leaders willing to be so bold as to recommend cutting budgets at any level, the Governor has, in effect, asked for the legislature to give the green light to cities who would raise taxes rather than cut spending. With Republicans like these, who needs Democrats?

Daniels chose not to mention Daylight Savings Time. I can't blame him. Why gash a festering wound, right? Nor was the BMV closings a cause for patting himself on the back this evening. The Colts Stadium project, which Daniels dramatically wrested away from Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson was also conspicuously absent, and not surprisingly given the public outcry against the planned theft of the NK Hurst land by the state.

The biggest surprise of the evening was the Governor's call for a 25-cent per pack hike in the taxes on cigarettes. For all the Republican rhetoric in opposition to using taxes as a means to change behavior, there was Daniels, sounding very much like a liberal Democrat.

On a purely political note, Daniels may have set a fire in his party's house by urging the elimination of some township offices. While this will handicap Indianapolis Republicans, who are fighting consolidation in Marion County, it will create enemies of the numerous elected Republican township assessors, trustees, and board members. If Daniels has his way, many of these people will face having their political careers ended, along with the growth of their pensions. How entertaining it will be to watch the GOP devour itself!

Just wait until tomorrow's press conference, when he discusses eliminating other elected county offices, such as surveyor, auditor, recorder, and commissioner. The loudest calls for a one-term Daniels Administration may well come from the very people who worked hardest to elect him.

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