Gov. Daniels Draws Respect of NY Times Columnist

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat has joined the chorus of those singing the praise of Mitch Daniels. Though the Governor is still rather ambivalent about running for President in 2012, many in the national punditocracy are urging him to run:

Mitt Romney? He couldn’t make the voters like him last time … Sarah Palin? She’d lose 47 states … Mike Huckabee? Better as a talk-show host … Tim Pawlenty, Jim DeMint, Bobby Jindal, David Petraeus? Too blah, too extreme, too green, and stop dreaming …

But murmur the name Mitch Daniels, and everyone perks up a bit. Would he win? Maybe not. But he’d be the best president of any of them …

“I’ve never seen a president of the United States when I look in the mirror,” Daniels remarked last week, after officially inching the door ajar for 2012. You can’t blame him: At 5’7”, the Indiana governor wouldn’t be the tallest man to occupy the White House, and he’d be the baldest president since Dwight D. Eisenhower. If Romney looks like central casting’s idea of a chief executive, Daniels resembles the character actor who plays the director of the Office of Management and Budget — a title that he held, as it happens, during George W. Bush’s first term.

Since then, though, he’s become America’s best governor. In a just world, Daniels’s record would make him the Tea Party movement’s favorite politician. During the fat years of the mid-2000s, while most governors went on spending sprees, he was trimming Indiana’s payroll, slowing the state government’s growth, and turning a $800 million deficit into a consistent surplus. Now that times are hard, his fiscal rigor is paying off: the state’s projected budget shortfall for 2011, as a percentage of the budget, is the third-lowest in the country.

Wisconsin, Minnesota Become Partners to Fight Economic Blues

Two states in the upper Midwest — Minnesota and Wisconsin — are hoping they’ve found a way to endure the tough times by forging a partnership, sort of like Tango & Cash, Rodgers & Hammerstein, etc.: 

The governors said they hope to save "tens of millions of dollars" in the coming years by cooperating on everything from buying road salt and prison food to running state telephone call centers.

"This is an opportunity for neighbors to help each other during a very difficult economy," Doyle said at the Madison signing of the agreement, adding later, "I am prepared to think very big about this."
Doyle and Pawlenty outlined the measures in St. Paul and Madison to help cope with the deficits facing both states.

Wisconsin has a projected budget shortfall of $5.4 billion and Minnesota faces a gap of $4.8 billion, both by the end of their upcoming two-year budgets.

Experts praised the proposal but cautioned it could provide only modest help at best in fixing the current budget gaps.

The effectiveness of such a pact is yet to be seen, but it’s potentially a practical and encouraging solution for some problems nonetheless. Perhaps Indiana’s governor may one day find it useful to forge a partnership with our neighboring … governor … in … Illinois … ooooohh, riiiiiight. Perhaps not.

North Star State Looking Up on Public School Efficiency

As we work our way through Minnesota during summer fishing trips, I invariably make it a point to announce to the group that Hibbing is the hometown of none other than Bob Dylan as we pass by. The other gentlemen on the trip rarely seem to care, but I like to make it known that I’m aware of this fact and that I celebrate his work. 

And now it seems apropos that the North Star State is working to avoid getting its public education system "Tangled Up in Red (Tape)." Despite my miserable segue, Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s office offers this:

Governor Tim Pawlenty and key legislators today announced a bipartisan proposal that will require Minnesota school districts and charter schools to combine efforts to reduce costs. The proposal will compel schools to pool limited resources in order to deliver more cost-effective services, redirect administrative costs, and reduce duplication…

“There are 340 school districts and 150 charter schools in the state, but back-room functions don’t need to be duplicated 490 times,” Governor Tim Pawlenty said. “Shared services will allow Minnesota schools to focus resources where they are needed the most – in the classroom and on improving student achievement.”

Also interesting:

Governor Pawlenty is hopeful that the Legislature will pass a bill for this initiative sooner rather than later so that districts may realize savings during the 2009-2010 school year. School districts in other states have saved 5 to 15 percent in purchasing and information technology services. For example:

• One Pennsylvania school district was able to save approximately $100,000 through the sharing of food services that helped standardize health and safety practices.

• The California Charter School Association entered into shared services agreements for worker’s compensation insurance resulting in approximately $20,000 in savings per school on an annual basis.

• Through the Midwestern Higher Education Commission, IT software sharing occurs among Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin resulting in a combined savings of $750,000.