Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

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January 8, 2013

Transformative governor moving on

Love him or hate him, there's one area of consensus on the soon-to-be departing Gov. Mitch Daniels: He transformed Indiana state government in ways few of his predecessors ever did.

In 2004, he was the first Republican in 16 years to take the governor's office and he wasted little time firing up what he called a "freight train of change."

One of his first acts in office was to sign an executive order doing away with collective bargaining for state employees. One of the big pieces of legislation he signed into law in his final year in office was the "right to work" bill that bars labor contracts from requiring non-union members to pay union dues.

He pushed for the property tax caps that are locked into Indiana law; championed the creation of the nation's largest voucher program that gives low-income parents public dollars to put their children in private schools; outsourced the Indiana toll road and the welfare system to private entities; and changed our clocks when he shoved the state onto daylight saving time.

Brian Howey, publisher of Howey Indiana Politics, has described - with more much eloquence than I can muster - how transformative Daniels has been both in politics and governing. In the forward he wrote for a book that contains excerpts from speeches Daniels made over 22 years, Howey lists Daniels among the 10 governors in Indiana's almost 200-year history who were true change agents.

Given how we cautious, conservative, stubborn Hoosiers tend to loathe change, that's a big deal.

"Whether you regard him as a hero or adversary, few Hoosiers will argue the notion that his eight years at the Indiana Statehouse have been impactful and have altered the trajectory of the state at a time when just about everything is changing on a global scale," Howey wrote.

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