IBJOpinion

EDITORIAL: Daniels on target on township reform

 IBJ Staff
January 15, 2011
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IBJ Editorial

Most of the media coverage of Gov. Mitch Daniels’ State of the State address focused on his ambitious plans to overhaul and improve education in Indiana.

With his high school chemistry teacher, Bob Watson, watching from the gallery, the Republican governor made another compelling case that the status quo isn’t working. He noted that 99 percent of Indiana teachers are rated “effective,” yet only one of three of the state’s students can pass the national math or reading exams.

But we are pleased that the two-term governor doesn’t intend to expend his considerable political capital on just that one important issue. He also went into surprising detail about his plan to reform local government.

To be sure, it’s a dry topic, not one likely to enrapture many Hoosiers as the legislation wends its way through the General Assembly this spring. But it’s an important one, especially at a time tax caps have forced many units of local government to cut back on essential services.

The topic is far from new, of course. Year after year, many of the state’s more progressive politicians have pushed the General Assembly to enact the reforms proposed as part of the Kernan-Shepard report of 2007. A statistical model run by Mike Hicks, a Ball State economist, estimated $470 million in annual savings statewide from the reforms, about 90 percent of which would come from township consolidation.

Daniels’ speech devoted seven paragraphs to government reform—more than he devoted to any legislative priority other than education (23).

“Some of the changes are so obvious that our failure to make them is a daily embarrassment,” the governor said.

He added: “Today, over 4,000 politicians, few of them known to the voters they represent, run over a thousand township governments. They are sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars in reserves. Some have eight years of spending needs stashed in the bank, yet they keep collecting taxes.”

Daniels drew only polite applause when he called for the elimination of township government—a sharp reminder of the challenges he faces getting lawmakers, many of whom came up through township government, to do the right thing.

But this may be the governor’s last, best chance to get reforms approved. The financial pressures on local government likely will ease as the economy improves, sapping momentum from efforts to bolster efficiency.

And Daniels is operating from a position of strength. He’s popular, and is working with an Indiana General Assembly that has both chambers controlled by the GOP for the first time since 2006.

If the governor succeeds in reforming education, he’ll have one more achievement to tout should he decide to run for president. In contrast, his fight to reform local government isn’t a headline grabber. We’re glad he’s making it a priority, nonetheless.•

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To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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  1. Those of you yelling to deport them all should at least understand that the law allows minors (if not from a bordering country) to argue for asylum. If you don't like the law, you can petition Congress to change it. But you can't blindly scream that they all need to be deported now, unless you want your government to just decide which laws to follow and which to ignore.

  2. 52,000 children in a country with a population of nearly 300 million is decimal dust or a nano-amount of people that can be easily absorbed. In addition, the flow of children from central American countries is decreasing. BL - the country can easily absorb these children while at the same time trying to discourage more children from coming. There is tension between economic concerns and the values of Judeo-Christian believers. But, I cannot see how the economic argument can stand up against the values of the believers, which most people in this country espouse (but perhaps don't practice). The Governor, who is an alleged religious man and a family man, seems to favor the economic argument; I do not see how his position is tenable under the circumstances. Yes, this is a complicated situation made worse by politics but....these are helpless children without parents and many want to simply "ship" them back to who knows where. Where are our Hoosier hearts? I thought the term Hoosier was synonymous with hospitable.

  3. Illegal aliens. Not undocumented workers (too young anyway). I note that this article never uses the word illegal and calls them immigrants. Being married to a naturalized citizen, these people are criminals and need to be deported as soon as humanly possible. The border needs to be closed NOW.

  4. Send them back NOW.

  5. deport now

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