Mitch Daniels has one month remaining as governor of Indiana. His eight years of service have been marked by constant change and history may well remember him as the best governor in a generation.
He gives the credit to state employees but, clearly, he’s proud of the improvements made during his two terms in office. “I don’t think I can grade myself,” he says when asked to do so. “That’s for you and others to do.”
“I hope people will remember this time as Indiana turning a corner,” he says later, “and deciding to be a state that leads change, and leads other places, and we are that today.”
Daniels is most proud of permanent accomplishments that include road building under the Major Moves program, the expansion of land conservation, and property tax caps. He worries that the state’s fiscal condition could erode and that education reforms could be reversed. But mostly, the guy who traveled the state in an RV in 2004 promising change feels like he delivered. “Honestly, if I had known then what I know now, I’d have said, yeah, this is gonna be worth it,” he says. “It’s gonna be worth the effort, it’s gonna be worth the difficulties that come with it. This is a good thing.”
He built the kind of record that led others to encourage him to run for President. He said no. “Looking back I am very glad about the decision I made,” he says, “first from the family standpoint, but also from Indiana’s. A lot of good things happened in years 7 and 8. It’s not supposed to happen, right? The duck’s supposed to get lame. Well, we never, I said lame ducks can still fly and I think we did.”
That includes the signing of right to work legislation and a tax rebate. Asked if he enjoyed the job, he says, “Not every single day but, yeah, in the aggregate, sure.”
Nevertheless, he says it’s time to go. More on that tomorrow.
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