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Governor Mitch Daniels was keynote speaker at Lincoln Day Dinner Wednesday night

(Talk of the Town photos by Jennifer Zartman Romano) Above, Governor Mitch Daniels spends a few minutes meeting personally with attendees at the Lincoln Day Dinner Wednesday evening in Columbia City. Below, Daniels was the evening's keynote speaker.

By Jennifer Zartman Romano

As Governor Mitch Daniels stood before fellow members of the Republican Party Wednesday evening, he noted that he'd personally attended 40% of the Whitley County GOP's Lincoln Day Dinners -- a remarkable attendance record for the growing event that was first held five years ago.
Despite having an arm in a sling as he recovered from recent rotator cuff surgery, Daniels was pleased to attend the event and address fellow Republicans about matters of the state and the nation. As the evening's keynote speaker, Daniels talked frankly with fellow Republicans assembled for the annual party fundraiser.
"People are noticing our state as we've always wanted them to," Daniels said, saying that representatives of states across the country have been asking him how Indiana has managed to fare so well in a bad economy. "They want to know, 'How are you not going broke like everyone else,'" he added. Of particular interest to outsiders: Indiana's health care free market, growing infrastructure, 1% cap on house values, well-run Bureau of Motor Vehicles offices, ongoing road maintenance, quick tax refunds and the fact that Indiana has managed to raise the amount of child support collected in the state by 10%.
"What people are starting to figure out -- there's something different about Indiana," he said. "Really it's about making life better. We are very different."
Yet, while Daniels feels positive about what has been accomplished within the state recently, he feels there is room for additional improvement. "We have got to get better," he added, citing one area of concern for him at this time: public education.
"Public education has many fine aspects...but it has got to get better," he said.
Daniels told party members he was terribly concerned with inaccurate communication about what his intentions are regarding public education.
"Dishonesty, I have trouble with," he said. "Reformers of education have become accustomed to people misrepresenting."
He feels the confusion created by bad information and dishonest information is creating a situation where many teachers are outraged, not knowing truth from fiction.
"I do not blame some of the teachers who've been writing," he said. "They've been misinformed." Daniels said he's received letters written by children about why charter schools are bad, something he found devisive. He said he also has not heard a single constructive idea from opponents about fixing public education's problems.
Daniels said he'd like to see changes in the way teachers are evaluated and he doesn't want to continue seeing some of the state's best teachers shortchanged because of seniority. Many opponents have complained that continual education cuts will be damaging to education, but Daniels stated, "The state in America that dedicates the largest percentage to education is Indiana. Half of every dollar spent is spent on K-12 education. We've protected it like nothing else. Along with public safety, nothing is more important."
Despite opposition, he said most Hoosiers are in agreement with his plans. "When you poll Hoosiers on these questions (about education), two-thirds of Hoosiers agree with this philosophy," said Daniels.
Daniels discussion then turned to national issues, making many in attendance wonder about his potential run for the presidency.
"I'm frequently wrong -- but I've been looking at the arithmetic of this nation and I cannot work out the math that comes out happy," he said of the nation's financial situation. "I'm very sober about this. The debt we're looking at...the new red menace...is more alarming to me. There is no weapons system to disarm it. Something big has got to change."
"We've got numerous opportunities to produce our own energy," he said, in addition to opportunities to trigger growth. He feels deregulation is necessary in many sectors."
"In the next election, we're going to have to make some fundamental changes as a nation -- it's heavy lifting," Daniels said.
He said that the national government has created many entitlements and that infuriates him.
"All you're entitled to is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," Daniels said. "Everything else is what we decide to do. We don't want people destitute, but we don't want people entitled. Who's in charge here?"
Daniels seemed to indicate that for repairing the nation's bigger issues, bipartisan efforts may be necessary. "We need to try to avoid 'us and them' and bring people around tasks that need to be done," he concluded.


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