Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels ’71, nearing the end of his second and final term at the helm of the Hoosier state, visited the Woodrow Wilson School Oct. 25 to speak about the reforms his administration enacted in the last eight years. The event was sponsored by Innovations for Successful Societies, a University program that plans to publish a case study of Indiana’s state government in November.
Daniels, a former director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, recounted some of his favorite examples of changes in state agencies, from reducing wait times at the department of motor vehicles to providing less expensive but more nutritious meals in the state’s prisons. He credited better measurement and employee incentives, such as performance pay, for encouraging improvement.
“Government is the last monopoly, and in the absence of any competition, there is very little impulse to do things better,” Daniels said.
Daniels also said that government unions are a “huge impediment” to change. On his first day in office, he rescinded a predecessor’s executive order requiring state employees to pay union dues and ended collective bargaining for public workers. Those moves, Daniels said, streamlined the process of reform by allowing the state to pursue private contracts for certain government services.
While Daniels favors smaller government, he said that those in power should devote their energies to better government, regardless of their policy preferences.
“Skepticism about big government is very healthy and very American,” he said, “but we should never let it be transmuted into contempt for all government, which is corrosive.”
After delivering his remarks, Daniels fielded several questions from Princeton students, including two who have parents on the faculty of Purdue University. Daniels will become president of Purdue after leaving the governor’s office in January.