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Pence slowly putting his stamp on Indiana, GOP

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Performance metrics and "key priority items" sound like dry management talk, but they provide insight into how Gov. Mike Pence is slowly taking the reins of the state and crafting Indiana's government with his own priorities.

Pence as governor has lacked much of the definition former Gov. Mitch Daniels established over eight years in office — and the image Pence crafted for himself as a social crusader over a dozen years in Congress hasn't stuck around.

But his agenda is slowly emerging, in ways both obvious and oblique.

Budget Director Chris Atkins delivered new priorities last week during a "lull" around the Statehouse, focusing on infant mortality, youth smoking and obesity, and a slew of "jobs" metrics, including employment among Indiana's war veterans.

In some cases, Atkins pointed out they are how Pence will determine whether state government is doing its job.

"They are the chief means by which the governor will hold agencies accountable," Atkins said at a Statehouse briefing, where he added Pence will award agencies with more money depending on how they perform.

The Pence team is done dancing with the Legislature, for the most part, until next session. And 2013 is a rare off-year, without statewide elections to draw the young administration out across the state.

In many ways, Pence has been hampered by a political reality he has acknowledged in catchphrases like "good to great," inherently recognizing Daniels' continuing popularity. And Pence has just had a slow start grasping state government. Like Daniels did in 2005, Pence came into the Statehouse "cold" following a stint in Washington.

The new governor's first-term legislative agenda slowly trickled out over the four-month session, with some confusion over which items were his, with the stark exception of the income tax cut. Pence signed a series of executive orders on his first day in office, placing a hold on new state regulations and establishing "family impact statements" across state agencies.

With the exception of two embattled agencies where Pence sought to implement his own reforms — the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Child Services — Pence leaned heavily on Daniels' agency heads to fill out his team.

Rob Wynkoop recently left the Department of Administration and Mike Cline left the Indiana Department of Transportation to take jobs with Daniels at Purdue University.

Down the street from the Statehouse at the Indiana Republican Party headquarters, another group of Daniels' allies split after helping Pence settle in. Party Chairman Eric Holcomb announced he would be leaving to run U.S. Sen. Dan Coats' state office and former Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman announced she was stepping down as a national committee member to focus on her new job as an economic development director in southwest Indiana.

"While there is never a perfect time for these types of transitions, I believe this year, being an off-election year, is the best time," Holcomb said in a statement announcing his departure. "In addition, and most importantly, these changes will give Governor Mike Pence a wonderful opportunity to charge forward and write our party's next chapter of success."

It was a key reminder that Daniels no longer presides in Indianapolis. Both Pence and Daniels are prominent Republicans with political footprints stretching well beyond the state borders, but the current governor has walked a fine line trying to define himself as a conservative Republican who's distinct from Daniels.

He now has another chance to place his stamp on the state with the coming pick of a new party chairman. That's expected soon, well before Holcomb's July 9 departure.

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  1. The east side does have potential...and I have always thought Washington Scare should become an outlet mall. Anyone remember how popular Eastgate was? Well, Indy has no outlet malls, we have to go to Edinburgh for the deep discounts and I don't understand why. Jim is right. We need a few good eastsiders interested in actually making some noise and trying to change the commerce, culture and stereotypes of the East side. Irvington is very progressive and making great strides, why can't the far east side ride on their coat tails to make some changes?

  2. Boston.com has an article from 2010 where they talk about how Interactions moved to Massachusetts in the year prior. http://www.boston.com/business/technology/innoeco/2010/07/interactions_banks_63_million.html The article includes a link back to that Inside Indiana Business press release I linked to earlier, snarkily noting, "Guess this 2006 plan to create 200-plus new jobs in Indiana didn't exactly work out."

  3. I live on the east side and I have read all your comments. a local paper just did an article on Washington square mall with just as many comments and concerns. I am not sure if they are still around, but there was an east side coalition with good intentions to do good things on the east side. And there is a facebook post that called my eastside indy with many old members of the eastside who voice concerns about the east side of the city. We need to come together and not just complain and moan, but come up with actual concrete solutions, because what Dal said is very very true- the eastside could be a goldmine in the right hands. But if anyone is going damn, and change things, it is us eastside residents

  4. Please go back re-read your economics text book and the fine print on the February 2014 CBO report. A minimum wage increase has never resulted in a net job loss...

  5. The GOP at the Statehouse is more interested in PR to keep their majority, than using it to get anything good actually done. The State continues its downward spiral.

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