One month into the administration of Governor Mike Pence, you can hold one truth to be self-evident: He's not the second coming of his predecessor, Mitch Daniels.
But don't let outward appearances fool you. In assorted subtle ways, Pence has adroitly distances his administration from his predecessor's.
Parse some major moves made by the new governor over the past six-odd weeks and you'll find interesting reversals of tone, message and policy form the past eight years...
Feigenbaum proceeds to cite several examples:
- Restoring much of the power of the Indiana Department of Commerce. Daniels had prided his creation of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to promote economy. While Pence has not ended the IEDC, he has responded positively to media and legislative complaints about the lack of transparency in IEDC deal-making.
- Pence quietly paused the development of 400 employee fertilizer plant being built in Posey County by Fatima, a company out of Pakistan. Members of Congress had concerns that the company's products were being used in explosive devices targeting Americans. Feigenbaum also noted that Fatima had used the state's backing to float $1.3 billion in bonds for the project.
- The Pence budget would shift $50 million from horse track subsidies to other priorities.
- Pence didn't oppose the Indiana House bill requiring earlier collection of sales tax by Amazon. Many legislators believed that Governor Daniels had overstepped his authority by inking a deal allowing Amazon to delay collecting the tax despite Amazon in exchange for locating here despite the fact that Amazon was locating in other states while agreeing to immediately begin the collection of sales tax.
- Pence is open to reconsidering the development of the deal for the Rockport coal gasification plant which, in its current form, is on target to cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Daniels had fought reconsideration of the project.
Governor Daniels' handling of the budget was nothing short of brilliant. He took us through a the worst recession since the Great Depression without a tax increase, while holding the line on spending, and was willing to finally take on the elephant in the budget room - never ending education spending increases under both Republican and Democratic Governors. But one area where Daniels fell short, and Pence can vastly improve on, is administration. Part of that improvement requires accepting the fact that being elected Governor does not mean you know everything and to be willing to listen to the input of others, particularly legislators who are the governmental eyes and ears around the state It also means admitting when things aren't working and a new direction needs to be taken. Those are character traits more than anything. Feigenbaum makes the case that, although still early, Pence may have those character traits needed to be even a more successful Governor than his predecessor, Mitch Daniels.