Fact Check: Indiana Trails The Nation In Personal Income Growth

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Out Of Touch: Reality, Meet Guv. Guv, Meet Reality. Go Have A Chat.

Images There was a time when the Guv blamed Democrats for Indiana's economic woes. Now, he's all about blaming, um, the economy for our economic woes and promising, as he did with DST, that his burden-shifting property tax plan, which will cause local governments to raise taxes or cut services, and the long-term lease of the Indiana Toll Road, which was signed into law almost two years ago, will bring jobs here.

Heaven forbid he actually just admit that we rank 44th in the nation for job growth rate since he took office. Heaven forbid he actually reach out to the working men and women of this state and tell them that he understands things aren't easy for them, but he's doing his best to help them. Heaven forbid he stop making things up and accept a little responsibility for the current state of affairs. (Yes, responsibility. He was, after all, one of the yes-men who helped get us into this war that's now costing us, like, $5,000 a minute.)

But no. Here's what he's saying instead:

Gov. Mitch Daniels said he feels a recession wouldn't hit Indiana as hard as other states, citing recent state changes for his optimism.

Daniels spoke to the Valparaiso Rotary Club on Tuesday, and highlighted what he called the short-term benefits of his Major Moves project and the changes in property taxes.

The property tax caps that the state legislature recently approved will help encourage business growth during a period of possible economic crisis, Daniels told the audience.

"What business doesn't prize certainty for making its own investment?" he said.

He added that property-tax reform also comes at a good time for struggling homeowners, giving them more money to spend and help the economy keep going.

The same holds true for Major Moves, Daniels said, which will help pay for continued road work -- and the incomes of construction workers -- for the next year, when other states are struggling to find the money for infrastructure.

He also pointed to data showing that all of Indiana's neighbors are struggling with budget cuts and growing unemployment rates. Unlike them, though, Indiana has a surplus and a decreasing unemployment rate.

"There's a lot of evidence we'll be able to ride (a recession) out a little bit better," he said.

Never Say Never: Guv Says There's Nothing Going On Between IDEM, BP

Sewagemonster This is the kind of statement from an elected official that just begs for a follow-up records request asking to see all the correspondence exchanged between the government entity and the business being regulated by said entity:

Gov. Mitch Daniels' office may have received a thank-you call from BP for a well-run public hearing on the Whiting refinery's air permit, but the office has not been involved with the permit, the governor said Tuesday.

"No. That's IDEM's business," Daniels said after a speech in Valparaiso on Tuesday. "Their instructions -- like every other agency -- are: move fast, be consistent, check the public interest ... be quick. That's where our guidance stops."

In an internal memo to his staff on March 18, Indiana Department of Environmental Management Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Air Quality Dan Murray said a BP representative had called the governor's office to thank IDEM for "the best, most well-run public hearing she has ever been involved in." BP confirmed the call.

Daniels said thank-you calls aren't that common.

"The office gets a lot of phone calls," he said. "As you might imagine, any public office gets more complaints than thank-yous, but once in awhile, someone's nice enough to say something positive."

Last spring, less than a handful of local residents showed up at a hearing on BP's water permit.

On March 14, more than 1,000 people attended the public hearing on BP's air permit in Hammond. IDEM's Murray said his staff has not done anything different this time to get public attendance.

I Love You, Indiana: But How Do We Know You Won't Screw Us Again, Guv?

Kiss The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette takes note of the Guv's new television ad:

Gov. Mitch Daniels has rolled out a new campaign commercial, and much of it borrows from his 2004 campaign, complete with images of the RV and trips to diners. "Travelin' the state, seein' the small towns, stayin' in people's houses," Daniels says at the beginning of the commercial.

The governor also tackles head-on the idea that some Hoosiers believe he made too many changes – "too much, too soon" in his words.

"I don't expect anybody to agree with all of (the changes), there are too many," he says.

Here's one person with whom the Guv stayed during the 2004 campaign who probably won't be featured in the 2008 version.

By the way, is anyone else kinda creeped out by the underlying message of the Guv's updated version of the same-old-same-old message?

As in: "I know my treatment of you has been a little rough, Indiana, but I brought you chocolates and flowers, and I promise to never, ever be mean to you again if you'll just give me this second chance to make things right."

Really Mattering: WashPo Writer Calls Indiana Race For Prez "A Fair Fight"

Presidentialseal It's pretty cool to matter in the presidential race, but Indiana is shaping up to be the next must-win state where neither candidate has the clear advantage. The Washington Post's Anne Kornblut reports from Evansville:

Something unusual appears to be developing in the Democratic presidential race in this state: a fair fight.

Wedged between Illinois, which is Sen. Barack Obama's home state, and Ohio, which Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton dominated on March 4, Indiana may be the one state remaining on the primary calendar where both candidates begin with a roughly equal chance of coming out ahead.

That fact alone makes it stand out from states such as Pennsylvania, where the playing field for the April 22 contest offers big advantages to Clinton (N.Y.), or the Oregon race a month later, which clearly tilts toward Obama.

In Indiana, Obama has a home-field advantage, while Clinton has the backing of the popular Sen. Evan Bayh and may have an edge on the kind of economic issues that are likely to dominate the discussion before the state's Democrats vote on May 6.

"If I had to pick -- and I'm not usually shy about saying who's going to win -- I couldn't tell you today," said Rep. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat who represents Indiana's 2nd District and has not committed to either candidate. Others entrenched in Indiana politics put Clinton ahead, if only slightly.

The state's Democrats have reacted to their sudden relevance with enthusiasm -- thousands waited in the cold to see Clinton at several stops last week -- and the campaigns have responded by pouring resources into the state. Obama arrived here first, making an appearance March 15 in Plainfield, and the Clinton campaign is launching an attempt to limit his following on campuses with its own blitz on the numerous colleges and universities around the state. On Monday, Chelsea Clinton is set to help kick off the effort, appearing with her father, former president Bill Clinton, in South Bend before traveling to Bloomington.

Let The Speechifying Begin: A Few Photos From The Dyngus Day Fun

Megaphone Dyngus Day is over, and TDW is tired, but not so tired that she doesn't have time to upload a few photos from the two venues -- the West Side Democratic Club and the Hoosier Tap -- where she joined with fellow Democrats to drink a few beers and chat about politics this morning and afternoon.

Both places were packed, especially the former one, where former President Bill Clinton and former First Kid Chelsea Clinton talked up wife/mom Hillary Clinton's campaign. Former Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend also heaped praise on Mrs. Clinton.

Former U.S. Rep. and 9/11 Commission member Tim Roemer spoke as a surrogate for presidential hopeful Barack Obama, and both gubernatorial candidates, South Bend native Jim Schellinger and former U.S. Rep. Jill Long Thompson, got their turn at the podium.

Schellinger and his wife, Laura, showed up a bit later at the Hoosier Tap to share in the festivities there. (For her part, that's where TDW wound up because it was nearby and not swarming with people with plastic cords in their ears.) Those photos after the jump, but first, a few from the West Side Democratic Club:

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Continue reading "Let The Speechifying Begin: A Few Photos From The Dyngus Day Fun" »

Two Sets Of Talking Points: Guv Hates On Schools, Loves Education?

Apple_2 When you see, on one hand, the Guv talking about schools and local governments like they're the most wasteful entities on the face of the planet, you have to wonder how he can turn around and say things like this with a straight face:

Daniels said the state will continue to fund education properly.

"Schools and education come at the top of the priority list in Indiana," Daniels said. "I'm sure it will still be -- certainly for me -- a top priority regardless of budget circumstances."

That quote comes from this story by Associated Press writer Deanna Martin about the long-term effects of the Guv's tax "reform" plan on school districts, particularly those that don't have an affluent tax base on which to rely for funding:

Gov. Mitch Daniels says the state's new property tax restructuring plan "puts taxpayers first." But schools worry that coming in second could cost them millions, threaten programs and widen the gap between poor and rich districts.

"We have a responsibility, an obligation and a duty to ensure that our students receive a quality education," said Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White. "We have to pay for that."

The tax plan Daniels signed into law Wednesday will cap property tax bills for most homeowners at 1 percent of their home's assessed value, with 2 percent limits on rental property and 3 percent caps for businesses.

More money in taxpayers' pockets means less cash for schools. And education budgets are already tight, said Nate Schnellenberger, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association.

"Anyone that thinks that teachers are overpaid or schools are overfunded simply hasn't been out in the real world in a while," he said.

Return Of The Fluffy: Guv Tries To Rebuild His Public Image On The Air

The Guv has launched his first re-election ad. It talks about traveling the state, talking to Hoosiers and making change -- sometimes change that people don't like.

The overarching message seems to be that he knows he pissed people off, but he deserves a second term to make right his mistakes.

Or maybe we should just elect someone who doesn't make people mad in the first place because that person pays attention to Hoosiers instead of acting unilaterally like he's the smartest dude in the room.

Objectively, this isn't a bad ad, but it's also not a very memorable one. It does, however, give us a clear indication that the Guv intends to run 2004 Campaign Redux in an attempt to convince people that he really is a likable guy who groks average working Hoosiers, not some hand-me-down Bushie with out-of-touch talking points and a stubborn streak.

Here's the new ad, which appears to have been made by the same folks behind Jon Elrod and Dan Burton's television campaigns:

And if you can't remember the ads he ran in 2004, here they be. You can bet he won't be running the outsourcing one ($2 billion and counting!) or the one featuring Dubya's praise (universally deplored!) again:

Prior Restraint: Judge Prevents DCS Critic From Speaking Out On Camera

Dcs_logo The Department of Child Services will do anything -- even obtaining a possibly unconstitutional restraining order against a local television station -- to prevent its critics from speaking out.

It is, after all, an election year, and we wouldn't want Jim "Maverick" Payne making the Guv look bad, would we?

A disabled veteran and single father of four, McGaha, 37, said he thinks the court and Department of Child Services are out to get him because he stood up to workers he contends have treated him and his four children unfairly.

After the TV segment aired, Honk For Kids asked the station, WXIN (Channel 59), why McGaha's face had been blurred and was told of the restraining order. That was the first that anyone, including McGaha, had heard about the judge's action.

Gavin Maliska, news director at WXIN, said station officials discussed challenging the order, which was issued the day the segment was to air, but decided McGaha's contributions weren't essential to the story.

"It came down to principle versus practical," he said. "If it would have affected what we were trying to do with the story, we probably would have had a different outcome."

Maliska said the court order was sought by the guardian ad litem who represents McGaha's children in a Child in Need of Services case in Fountain County.

The guardian ad litem, Covington attorney Sue White, did not return calls from The Indianapolis Star, and the court would not release a copy of the order. Bailiff Dianne Cotten said it was part of the confidential records of the CHINS case and could not be made public.

However, a copy obtained by The Star showed that Henderson barred WXIN "from broadcasting any portion of an interview involving Mark McGaha and his minor children until such time as the guardian ad litem and/or court has an opportunity to review" the report.

The order said the injunction was issued to protect the best interests of the children. Karlson said that does not provide the constitutional standard for such an order.

"I see no basis on which a prior restraint could have been imposed," he said. "He has an absolute right to complain about his treatment by the court or any other government agency."

McGaha could appeal the judge's ruling, Karlson said, "but it's basically a moot point" because the opportunity to air his complaints on TV has passed.

"I don't know what's more outrageous: the judge ordering this and not knowing it violates the Constitution, or knowing and still issuing the injunction," Karlson said.

James W. Payne, who heads DCS, said he could not talk about the specifics of McGaha's case. He said DCS has no control over the judge's actions and that parents who have a beef with the agency or court have a number of avenues to have their concerns addressed.

McGaha's children have been in foster care for more than a year. He said they were removed based on allegations he had missed "a couple doctor appointments" for his children, two of whom have ongoing medical problems.

"That was taken care of long before they (DCS) ever got involved," said McGaha, who lives in Lafayette. "After that, I did everything they said, but they kept coming after me."

One-Year Fix: How The Guv's Tax Plan Is Actually Going To Work Out

Chalkboard The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, which actually spends quite a bit of time and thought on its editorial page, runs a lengthy and informative column by Karen Francisco this morning explaining why the Guv's tax relief plan isn't even close to long-term reform, no matter how many times he says it is:

Much of the complexity of the new law lies in the property tax caps the governor insisted were necessary to make tax relief permanent. A companion resolution, Senate Joint Resolution 1, triggers the process of amending the state constitution because its current language – requiring a "uniform and equal rate of property assessment and taxation" – doesn't work with a tax plan that taxes homes, apartments and businesses at different rates.

The proposed amendment must now be approved by a separately elected General Assembly in 2009 and then ratified by a majority of Indiana voters. By 2010, residential property taxes would be limited to 1 percent of their assessed value, so that the tax bill on a home assessed at $100,000 would never exceed $1,000. For apartments and other residential property, the cap is 2 percent. Commercial property would be capped at 3 percent.

The caps have been inaccurately described as circuit-breakers, but true tax circuit-breakers include a mechanism for making up revenue lost to the caps. In Indiana, local units of government and schools will simply lose the money they would have collected from property owners who hit the 1 percent mark. Business owners, with three times the tax exposure, are much less likely to benefit from the caps.

It's the classification of taxpayers that is bothersome. Moses said the higher tax caps for businesses could affect the state’s competitiveness.

"It has serious economic consequences," he said. "When we tax business property at a higher rate than others, our neighbors are going to use that against us. … This could be a very detrimental bill for jobs."

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