Dorothy Schneider has an article in the Journal & Courier with an overview of state government following Republican pick ups in the most recent election. What has changed most is that the Republicans went from a minority in the House to a solid majority. That might make Gov. Daniels last two years more active than they otherwise would have been.
As noted in the article, voters think Indiana has had a balanced budget without raising taxes in the past. This, among other things, ignores the 17% sales tax increase and the gobs of money Indiana is borrowing because of its insolvent unemployment insurance fund. In any event, if Daniels has future ambitions to run for President or some such, he’ll have to do what he can to burnish his reputation, in the face of some inconvenient reality, as a non-tax raising budget balancer.
Going forward, he and the Republicans in the General Assembly will have to address the unemployment insurance problem. They had a deal in 2009, managed to get the deal suspended in 2010, and will likely renege on it and restructure things in 2011 to balance the shortfall with a heavier burden on workers than on employers. They will also get to replace the current election map with a new one based on the 2010 census. Gov. Daniels promises a “fair” map, but with one party in control, that seems unlikely. Not that I’d expect a fair map even if the Democrats controlled one chamber – just a more elaborate gerrymandering. Redistricting is always going to be political, so I wouldn’t lose a lot of sleep over it.
Expect a lot of “education reform” efforts. With this crowd, education reform usually begins and ends with busting the teacher’s union. In the middle, you might get a bit of “follow the student” funding which favors those areas with lower fixed costs and easier to educate children.
Government consolidation will probably get another run, but it’s tough telling whether that passes. Township government is probably the lowest hanging fruit in terms of potential consolidation or elimination; but that’s not necessarily a partisan issue. Whatever the parties’ respective philosophy on government is, as a practical matter, they all potentially rely on the support of their counterparts at lower levels of government.
Given the solid control, I’d be surprised if Gov. Daniels could (or would be inclined to) resist the temptation to create opportunities for well-connected friends and well-wishers to cash in; particularly if that good will might come back to him in the form of campaign contributions. So, look at some “privatization” efforts that feature long contract terms, little in the way of competitive bidding, and less in the way of transparency and oversight.
And don’t take my bellyaching here as an endorsement of a Bauer-led Democratic House. He was useful as a brake to Daniels’ throttle, and I do favor Bauer to Bosma. (The House could really stand some fresh blood generally, Bauer v. Bosma has jumped the shark.) Given the composition of the upcoming government, I anticipate that Sen. Long’s Senate is going to be (relatively) the most responsible chamber in the legislative process.