INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) --- Mitch Daniels believes he's passing a shining torch onto Republican Mike Pence who is ready to succeed Daniels at the helm of state government.
We sat down for an exclusive interview with the governor Wednesday, to reflect on his 8-year stint as the leader of the Hoosier state.
Daniels has 40 days left in office.
He plans to make good use of them, claiming there will be job announcements to celebrate before he calls it quits, and that Northeast Indiana will be one of the winners.
" A lot of vibrancy, I think, in the Fort Wayne economy, but there's more coming and, you know, we need every one we can get," Daniels said.
He speaks with pride about keeping state government out of the red through tough times, of establishing property tax caps that will carry on into the future.
But he might be most satisfied about his controversial decision to lease the Indiana Toll Road to foreign investors for nearly $4-billion.
It's money that funded "Fort to Port" and a host of other road projects.
We asked him what he thought of a William & Mary college professor who recently criticized the deal as shortsighted management that will rob future generations of a potential moneymaking asset.
" He's exactly one hundred percent wrong. Every penny was invested in buying new public assets for the long-term future of this state. We didn't spend a nickel. We obviously got overpaid, the whole world knows it, and invested it in buying long-term public assets, so he gets an 'F'," Daniels said.
The governor say he feels good about a number of school reforms that happened on his watch.
But Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett was soundly defeated in his re-election bid.
Some would say that indicates Hoosiers feel the governor got it wrong on education.
Daniels argues opponents used scare tactics to turn voters against Bennett's reforms, including ones that made teachers nervous about their job security.
He's convinced we can't turn back now.
" Look at every single statistic. Our kids are not doing well enough, relative to the rest of the country, let alone the world. We've got to make these kind of changes."
Daniels, who decided against a run for President in 2012, is worried about the future of--his words-- a self-indulgent America.
But he remains optimistic we'll not only avoid the fiscal cliff, but will prosper going forward as a land of opportunity.
He hopes his home state will be viewed the same, long after he has moved on.
" Somebody recently wrote, Indiana's lost its inferiority complex. I say good, good riddance.”
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