November 14, 2012

KITCHELL: We're at a crossroad


5. Interstate 69. Pence has a $100 million headache on his hands that might be settled immediately if he decides to make Bloomington-to-Evansville a toll road.

6. The tea party. Pence hasn’t shied away from supporting the movement, but now it won’t shy away from him either and will expect some favors.

7. Education. Less than a week after Democrat Glenda Ritz defeated Daniels-supported Tony Bennett for state school superintendent, Republicans are already talking about making the superintendency an appointed position again, and they’re also claiming Ritz won’t be able to alter changes made under Bennett’s watch. But a telling statistic for Pence is that Ritz won more votes than he did, despite being outspent and getting a relatively late start. Retaliating against Ritz may only fuel voter angst over education reforms.

8. Supermajority. Pence has it to work with in the legislature, but given state funding, no one caucus can have it all. There will be some friends and enemies made and new coalitions formed. How that plays out is yet to be determined.

9. Back Home Again in Indiana effect. One of the little-reported story lines from the recent  campaign is the fact that Indiana’s seniority in Congress is near the bottom of all states. The Indiana Republican with the most “seniority” is Marlin Stutzman who is starting his second term in January. With Richard Lugar gone, Dan Coats has only two years of seniority in the Senate, and he’s the state’s “senior” senator. Without clout on Capitol Hill, Pence  and his party will have to look within the boundaries of the state to accomplish what leadership positions have elsewhere.

10. Timing. How long Pence will have the luxury of a super majority is anyone’s guess. Historically, the governor’s party tends to lose seats in the first cycle after taking office, but Democratic leadership in the House is still very much a work in progress. Scott Pelath of Michigan City was a logical choice for Democratic leadership and should be a refreshing change. How his style and Pence’s mesh with voters and legislators will be a key thing to watch in the next two years.

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The Pence administration continues to cut Indiana agency budgets despite a state surplus of $2 billion. Is this wise management of state funds?

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