(Indianapolis, Ind.) - Governor Mitch Daniels has plans to reform unemployment, education, and local government in Indiana.
Tuesday’s sweeping Republican victories give the governor a GOP majority to work with in the Indiana House. His Senate advantage was only strengthened.
The governor laid out his 2011 legislative priorities on Thursday.
“I want to present to the citizens of our state the outlines of a very ambitious agenda for more positive change in Indiana,” said Daniels. “It’s a big set of assignments and we are really excited about the chance for Indiana to surge forward on all of these fronts.”
At the top of his list was passing a balanced budget without having a general tax increase. Enacting a straightforward state government spending cap in the form of an automatic taxpayer refund is also proposed.
The legislature’s top Democrat sounded skeptical of Daniels balanced budget ambitions.
"I think it's magic if he can do it without a tax increase," said House minority leader-to be Pat Bauer (D-South Bend).
As in 2009 when tax revenues went south with the economy, budget cuts are likely to be a major part of attempting to balance the budget. Unemployment benefits will likely be among the first casualties.
"You can't continue with some of the lowest premiums and highest benefits in America," Daniels said.
Unemployed Hoosiers can currently receive up to $390 a week from the state. Bauer warned that figure could decline by half with Daniels’ cuts.
"It's going to be disastrous," said Bauer.
The governor also highlighted his wishes to reform education. He wants to evaluate teachers on student learning and pay the best teachers more.
Daniels also wants schools to be accountable for student learning while giving them the flexibility to deliver better results under local control.
Other legislative priorities outlined by Daniels in a news release Thursday include:
Reward and protect our best state employees
Improve transparency and efficiency of local government
Broaden public-private partnerships (P3) for public infrastructure
Develop a fair redistricting plan
Tackle the imbalance in the unemployment insurance trust fund
Address issues in Indiana’s sentencing laws
Daniels has met with leaders from both parties in an effort to jumpstart discussion. He did not offer specifics on some of his top issues but said he will develop those ideas over the next several weeks.