Daniels Outshines Barbour in Comparison of State of the State Addresses

Bookmark and Share While all the Governors of all the states are gearing up for their State of the State addresses or have already given them, few such speeches had or will have the type of pressure and drama around them than do those of Indianas Governor Mitch Daniels and Mississippis Governor Haley Barbour.

Barbour and Daniels are both second term Governors who are in their last year in office. Both men remain popular within their states and have some of the highest favorable ratings from their voters then do the Governors of all other states. And both men have performed their jobs and led their states so well that they are often mentioned as potential candidates for President. For these reasons, perhaps more than most other State of the State addresses, the ones issued by Daniels and Barbour deserve special attention.

If either man is considering a run for President, their State of the State addresses offered them the opportunity to set the stage for that campaign. It provided them a chance to define their previous seven years of leadership and set a tone for their future leadership. On Tuesday, both men set that stage.

While both men, to one extent or another, responsibly addressed the specific problems of their respective states, with very different styles, Barbour and Daniels struck strikingly similar tones on matters of their state budgets, rainy day funds, jobs, taxes, education and fiscal responsibility. Both men boasted the importance of balanced budgets, the need for education reforms, more charter schools, job creation, and the promise of no new taxes, especially in the middle of a national economic downturn. Barbour and Daniels also made sure to point out how much more fiscally responsible and how much better off their states are than are other states during this historically sluggish national economy. But it was the performance of Mitch Daniels that put Haley Barbour to shame.

Mitch Daniels delivered a speech that outshined Haley Barbour both in style and substance. Daniels address was articulate, upbeat, creative, detailed, organized, easy flowing and laced with humor and memorable quotes that drove home the impression of an accomplished man who was confident, in control and possessing great leadership skill and vision. Daniels speech subtly created the impression of a state that he governed to a point where it now leads the nation in fiscal responsibility, government reform and accountability. But even better for Daniels is the fact that his state is actually a leader in all those areas.

Without taking the credit, Governor Daniels pointed these facts out as he ticked off a list of proud accomplishments such as building one of the best job climates in the country, breaking the all-time record for new job commitments, and adding new jobs at twice the national average. .

We Hoosiers don’t like to wait, when we can act. If we cannot overcome a nationwide job hemorrhage, we can fight back better than others. Again in 2010, we broke all records for road building and bridge building, for the fourth year in a row, and put thousands to work doing so, said Daniels.

Daniels also touted a 2008 property tax cut that took effectand till this dayprovided home and business owners an additional $600 million still in their bank accounts and made Indianas property taxes the lowest anywhere in America.

Daniels described his handling of the budget as the clearest example of Hoosier resolve and explained the state handled a two billion dollar drop in state revenues as any family would, as any small business would. We decided what is most important, separated the must dos from the nice to dos, and matched spending to income.

He added Across the country, state spending, despite the recession, is still up sharply the last six years. But here, it is virtually flat, one-third the rate of inflation. Elsewhere, state government payrolls have grown, but here, we have the nation’s fewest state employees per capita, fewer than we did in 1978. During this terrible recession, at least 35 states raised taxes, but Indiana cut them. Since ’04, the other 49 states added to their debt, by 40 percent; we paid ours down, by 40 percent. Many states exhausted any reserves they may have had, and plunged into the red, but our savings account remains strong, and our credit AAA.

Governor Daniels again referred to taxes as he began to discuss the future state budget that he will be proposing. He assured legislators that he will welcome amendments and improvements, but only if they lived up to four principles, one being no tax increases to which he added Can I get an amen to that?. The other three principles included the requirement that the state stay in the black at all times, with a prudent budget excess in reserve. Two, annual revenues must exceed annual spending, with no need for any use of the state savings account. And three, no gimmicks such as raiding teacher pension funds and shifting state deficit funds to schools and universities by making them wait until the state had cash to pay them.

Daniels also proposed what he called lasting spending discipline by enacting an automatic taxpayer refund. When the day comes again when state reserves exceed 10 percent of annual needs, it will be time to stop collecting taxes and leave them with the people they belong to.” said Daniels.

He added Remember what the Hoosier philosopher said: It’s tainted money. Taint yours, and taint mine. Beyond some point, it is far better to leave dollars in the pockets of those who earned them than to let them burn a hole, as they always do, in the pockets of government.

Daniels speech also addressed the Issue of reform, reform of government, the criminal justice system and education. He spoke of the need to reform outdated forms of local government and end the conflicts of interest seen when double-dipping government workers simultaneously sit on city or county councils, interrogating their own supervisors and deciding their own salaries and putting a stop to the nepotism that leads to one in four township employees sharing a last name with the politician who hired them.

In addition to his good government reform initiatives, Governor Daniels called upon to legislators to see that lawbreakers are incarcerated in a smarter way, one that matches their place of punishment to their true danger to society. He noted We can be tougher on the worst offenders, and protect Hoosiers more securely, while saving a billion dollars the next few years. Let’s seize this opportunity, without waiting.

On the issue of education. In setting that up as an item on the agenda of the upcoming legislative session, Daniels said When we are courting a new business, right behind taxes, the cost of energy, reasonable regulation, and transportation facilities comes schools. What kind of school will my children, and our workers children attend? is a question were always asked. Sometimes, in some places, it costs us jobs today. There is no time to wait. Some of the initiatives he laid out included raising the quality of those teaching in Indiana by putting an end to tenure based upon seniority and age and placing the emphasis on quality and achievement. He also called upon the legislator to peel away unnecessary requirements that consume time and money without really contributing to learning by repealing mandates that should be left to local control and by insuring that collective bargaining stop micromanaging school leaders and handcuffing them in a way that makes it impossible for them to meet higher expectations.

Daniels final plea on education was to increase competition in education and increase the number of charter schools in the state. He called upon legislators to honor the parents of Indiana. and to trust and respect them enough, to decide when, where, and how their children can receive the best education, and therefore the best chance in life.

In its entirety, Daniels speech helped solidify his credentials as a fiscal conservative who knows how to actually make government curb spending and balance budgets. He also demonstrated himself to be a man of ideas and an effective communicator who unlike President Obama, has the ability to appeal to voters with more substance than flash.

On the other hand, Barbour delivered a speech that had just about as much substance but lacked the conviction that Mitch Daniels offered. Barbour did however put a greater emphasis on job creation and highlighted something that Daniels did not.energy.

Barbour committed himself to making job creation his top priority, adding I think it should be the countrys top priority too. Governor Barbour pointed out that Mississippis efforts in jobs skills training has helped raise the states per capita income by 27%, one of the larger increases in the country. He pointed to the implementation of innovative energy technologies that are providing jobs and giving Mississippi Power customer’s stable, affordable base-load electric rates for decades to come and creating the first commercial-scale example of carbon capture and energy sequestration in America. The Governor stated Both improving the skills of our workforce and being a reliable energy state are critical to job creation in Mississippi now and for many years to come.

More people working means more income for those families who were personally hit by this global recession. It means more revenue for our small and middle sized businesses, the backbone of our economy, and of the nation’s economy, too. And here in state government, job creation means more taxpayers with more taxable income. Indeed, most of the difficult budget issues facing us this session and for another year or two after that, directly result from job losses and the recession that led to them. said Barbour.

Much of the rest of Barbours State of the State of the address focused in on the need for a balanced budget and the budget cuts that will be required to get there. The Governor warned that with federal stimulus dollars drying up, the state budget will become even harder to balance and as such he addressed the need for a change in state laws that makes it impossible for the governor to cut any agencies budget by more than 5%. Governor Barbour asked for that limit to be raised to at least 10%.

In the final analysis, if one were to judge the chances of a successful presidential strategy based upon the substance and style of the two State of the State addresses, Mitch Daniels comes out far ahead of Haley Barbour. In his speech, Daniels displayed the character and content that would best counter President Obama. Mitch Daniels strongly struck the chords that President Obama is the weakest on, such as the economy and fiscal responsibility. But contrary to Daniels, in his State of the State address, Barbour did little to impress anyone. He did not distinguish himself as a leader excelling in any specific area or on any specific issue. And as for his style, Mitch Daniels has never been known for having an overwhelmingly appealing personality, but next to Barbour, Daniels came across like a rock star.

A comparison of the two speeches led me to conclude that if Mitch Daniels decides not to run for President after the Indian legislative session is over in April, not only will I be disappointed, Haley Barbour would be wise to hire Mitchs speech writers for his own campaign. After listening to the speech just written by his existing staff, it is easy to see whose is more savvy than the others.

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Haley Barbour’s State of the State Address

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Mitch Daniels’ State of the State Address

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