Monday, October 26, 2009
The reform-minded conservative
By Frank Donatelli
Imagine a two-term Republican governor from a state carried by Barack Obama who turned an $800 million deficit into a $1.2 billion surplus by cutting overhead and bringing sound business principles to his state’s government even as he provided new health benefits for poor citizens. Imagine no longer. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels accomplished this and more, and he did it all while enacting the biggest tax cut in state history.
Despite a long career in public service, Mr. Daniels is not nearly as well-known as some of his colleagues. He worked for several years on Capitol Hill as chief aide to Sen. Richard G. Lugar and served former President Ronald Reagan as political director. After a 15-year stint in private business, Mr. Daniels became former President George W. Bush’s director of the Office of Management and Budget and then won back-to-back gubernatorial races in 2004 and 2008 in Indiana. His second victory was won with the biggest vote total of any candidate for any office in state history.
Despite his relatively low public profile, Mr. Daniels has been a successful, reform-minded, conservative governor. He took office in 2005 with a huge deficit and state spending growing at an unsustainable 6 percent rate.