Gov. Mitch Daniels talks successes of 2 terms in part 1 of farewell interview weeks before leaving

Daniels discusses toll road, state surplus, more

INDIANAPOLIS - In just two and a half weeks, Mitch Daniels will leave office after two terms as governor that brought unprecedented change to Indiana.

RTV6 Reporter Norman Cox recently sat down with the governor for a farewell interview.

In the first installment, Daniels discussed his successes.

After a series of reactive governors, there's no doubt that Daniels was proactive -- he brought change with a bang, and while acknowledging that not everybody was happy about that, he believes he helped nudge Indiana forward.

Daniels’ changes include leasing the toll road, Daylight Saving Time, privatizing or outsourcing welfare and the lottery, and turning a deficit into a big surplus.

He said the $3.8 billion lease of the toll road, which funded his "Major Moves" highway and bridge construction program, was his biggest and toughest accomplishment.

"I was out a lot around the state,” said Daniels. “A lot of misunderstanding. Lot of, frankly, misrepresentation of the facts. And, you know, a lot of Hoosiers...even today there are a few who haven't figured out what a spectacular break we got, what a great success it is."

Daniels said Indiana actually got overpaid for the toll road lease, and today would never have gotten as much money.

The governor refused to give himself a grade for his eight years, saying he'd leave that for the pundits, but he said he definitely believes the state is better off.

"Far from perfect. Lots of problems, of course. But, yeah, we're fiscally solid, and we've got the best business climate around, which is, I hope, of long-term importance," Daniels said. "We've built a lot of roads and bridges that wouldn't have been there. We've set aside a lot of land, protected for future generations. And, you know, I think we've made a lot of progress."

And yet the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high. 

Daniels said Indiana has to fight upstream on that, because it's fighting a poor national economy and is part of the manufacturing sector, which got hammered so hard by the recession.

Daniels is proud of his accomplishments but is realistic about their staying power.

While he believes some are permanent, such as the roads and bridges and property tax reforms, he warns that others could be undone by future leaders.

"Triple-A credit and solid fiscal guarantee that'll continue," he said. "Best business climate around.  Right now jobs are coming here. We're beating other states most of the time to them. But that could change.  And education reform. We've got, I think, the most pro-kids, pro-students reforms in the nation on the books.  But they could be undone."

Daniels said his biggest success may be that Hoosiers have supported big changes and hard decisions in ways Indiana never did before and that other states now are trying to copy. 

He hopes they'll keep demanding big things from their future leaders.

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