Saturday, February 18, 2006

Democrats' Election Strategy Is A Losing Strategy For Indiana

The Democrats have decided that the mantra of time, taxes and toll roads will be their winning strategy for recapturing control of the House of Representatives and winning other races in this year's election. While this may prove to be an effective strategy in some localized races around the state, it is a losing strategy for Indiana.

The issue of time, of course, relates to Indiana's decision to join the industrialized world after nearly a half century in observing Daylight Savings Time. Of all the state's idiosyncracies which underscore its negative image as a backwater, hilljack state, the oddity and confusion of not changing our clocks with the rest of the world has been at the top of the list.

Indiana's past three governors, all Democrats, supported DST but gave it only lip service, not wanting to take any political risks. Indiana finally has a governor who was willng to put his neck on the line to make a change every educated and forward-thinking Hoosier knew had to be made if Indiana is to become a full participant in the modern economy, and he succeeded in making the much-needed change a reality. Democrats now want to use the issue to clobber Republicans who supported DST, even though a good number of its own members voted with Republicans to make it possible. What if the issue is successful for the Democrats this year? Does that mean we will turn the clock back?

Taxes is a time-proven issue for most political races. Presumably, Democrats use of this issue is an attempt to exploit homeowners' concerns about rising property taxes. Again, the state's past three Democratic governors opposed statewide tax increases and tax-restructuring during their 16-year reign over state government. With fewer state dollars to support services, local governments relied more upon the property tax to make up the difference.

Homeowner complaints about rising property taxes have been the loudest in the state's two largest counties, Marion and Lake, both of which are firmly in the control of the Democrats locally. While Gov. Daniels and Mayor Bart Peterson offered a bipartisan proposal to grant local governments flexibility to shift to other forms of taxation, such as sales and local income taxes, to lessen the reliance on the property tax, Democratic lawmakers instead chose to offer an election year gimmick to eliminate the property tax altogether without a complementary tax replacement. That may sound good in election-year sound bites, but it does nothing to address the fundamental problem in a meaningful way.

And the toll roads would mean, according to Democrats, that ungodly sin Gov. Daniels has committed by proposing the "sale of our toll road to foreigners" for instant gratification that will lead to higher tolls. It is in reality a lease which puts $3.4 billion immediately into the state's pocket which can be leveraged with federal dollars to fund the largest road-building project in the state's history over the next ten years. It includes completion of projects promised but not funded by the state's past three governors, including the I-69 extention from Indianapolis to Evansville, an interstate highway from Indianapolis to South Bend and two new bridges over the Ohio River, among others.

Despite Gov. Daniels' best efforts at selling the public on a program that is critical to the state's economic future, Democrats' demagoguery of the issue has proven quite effective at muddying the water enough to erode public support for the issue. If Gov. Daniels fails, the only thing that is certain is that there will be no road to South Bend in the next four years, and there will be no major progress on the I-69 extension during the next 10 years. Could this issue work for Democrats to unseat Republican toll road supporters in Northern Indiana like Rep. Jackie Walorski? Probably. But is that good for Indiana? Definitely not.

Time, taxes and toll roads could no doubt prove to be an effective strategy for Democrats in enough contested legislative races to swing control of the House of Representatives back to the Democrats after a 2-year hiatus from control. But the success of that strategy will mean more of the status quo. And that's not good for Indiana.


Anonymous said...

Certainly it is a losing strategy for the state, but Democrats aren't thinking about the best interests of its citizens or the economy in which they have to work. While some of the opposition is definitely about self-interest -- the Toll Road deal will likely secure Republican dominance in state politics for another half-century because long-promised construction projects will actually get done -- the heart of the opposiiton has little to do with the idea of the 75-year lease or even the details. The Toll Road lease deal is a lengthy document, but it's relatively clear considering that it's a legal document.

It all comes down to two facts of life in Indiana. One is brand of the particularly Hoosier unthinking political partisanship: I'm a [insert party affiliation] because my daddy and granddaddy were that affiliation too; those who aren't of that affiliation are my enemy and thus, I must destroy them. The Toll Road deal would be more palatable to those folks if Mitch Daniels was a Democrat and the same goes in the case of Marion County Republicans when it comes to Bart Peterson's Indy Works plan.

The other has to do with the fact that most of the opposition comes from people who are neither newcomers nor natives who have lived elsewhere and come back with new ideas and ways of thinking. These are the people who never left Indiana save for a trip to Chicago. They don't read the Economist or Forbes or even the Web edition of the Times of London. So they tend to be endowed with the kind of thinking indicative of never having been anywhere else or of open minds: All ideas from other parts of the world are horrible, not be trusted, and thus, should be ignored.

What we have here, in part, is a rather bipartisan war between two camps for the soul of the state, represented in Mitch Daniels and Bart Peterson (for reform) and by Pat Bauer and Scott Schneider (against). It's also representative at times in the battles over gay marriage, a situation where alliances seem to shift. Victory will depend far less on logic than on the willingness of Hoosiers both statewide and Indianapolis to realize the status quo isn't working. And whether most of them see it is an open question.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Very well said RiShawn. I can't disagree with you.

Anonymous said...

Daniels began his last town hall meeting declaring that he was able to reduce spending by eliminating 300 government positions. He claims that the 550 current toll road employees will be guarenteed an INTERVIEW with the new company. So what happens to their pensions......oh yeah he said they might be able to place them in other IDOT positions around the state.........after they just laid off 300 employees. That's what northern Indiana is opposed too. While people in Indy reap the benefits financially over the toll road sale we will be stuck with increased truck traffic on U.S. 20. Forget about a bypass because some rich Republican might have to move his golf course. Daniels is waving the money under your noses and you're selling out your fellow Hoosiers when there are alternatives that have not fully been explored.

And you're right it will affect votes in the North. I voted for Daniels and I won't make that mistake again. From now on it's a straight Democratic ticket for me........and I'm not alone. I know of at least 850 others who won't vote for him in the next election.

Please come on up here and take a look for yourself. If Daniels wants to sell this to Northern Indiana he needs to guarentee weigh stations at the Eastern and Western edge of Indidan along U.S. 20. He needs to find a better alternative for IDOT employees. That's what will sell the plan up has nothing to do with foriegn investors. Good grief.

Anonymous said...

First, this is a very good blog. I read you almost as much as I do Taking Down Words. TDW is a bit funnier, but it is very good to see the kind of Republicanism that I knew when I was younger.

However, for the first time I must disagree with some of the comments regarding the Toll Road. Even though I am a Democrat, I would have the same doubts if this was proposed by a Democrat. I do not think that that the Governor has made the case that the sale is as good a deal as it may be. I am just as certain that this issue is not as strong as it may be for the Democrats. If the deal is as good as being touted by the Governor, then the issue goes poof. The Governor woould be more convincing if he were not trying the hard sell.

Unlike Rishawn Biddle, I see the problem as not two warring tribes but as more of an oligarchic legislature.

Lastly, if the issues are going to be as described in the main post then I agree with your thesis. If, however, these issues are distilled down to a governor who is a trifle bit feckless and unheeding of the public then we Democrats might have a winning issue. Too bad that my party does not make more of the government reform issue therein lies a way to lower taxes and start creating a more modern Indiana government.

Anonymous said...

I happen to think the Toll Road lease is a good idea. At the end of the day, far more jobs will be created and opportunities developed than one can imagine.

As a Democrat whose parents were, indeed, Democrats, I am a Dem not becuase of my parents, but because the record is very clear that the R's will continue to try to harm me, as a gay man, for the rest of my life.

Further, I am a social progressive but a fiscal conservative. I happen to believe that either party could most likey do a good job for our state, if they were limited to their time in power. I think 16 years was too long for the Dem's and would be too long for the R's. I agree that a big part of our problems is with the legislature.

With respect to the Dem's strategy to take back the IND House, we'll see how it all shakes out.

Keep up the good work Gary!