The Statehouse File
In his final State of the State
Address, Gov. Mitch Daniels
Mitch Danielslaid out his case for why right to work would be good for
Indiana even though it is such a divisive issue.
"Because economic opportunity, and
building America's best home for jobs, is the central goal of all we do, every
year should include a bold stroke to enhance it," he said.
Daniels said right to work is the
obvious way to do that this year because it would build a better business
"The idea that no worker should be
forced to pay union dues as a condition of keeping a job is simple, and just,"
he said. "But the benefits in new jobs would be large: a third or more of
growing or relocating businesses will not consider a state that does not
provide workers this protection."
In a 30-minute speech interrupted by
applause 24 times and marked by protests audible within the chamber of the
Indiana House of Representatives but not on the broadcast, Daniels urged the General Assembly
Assemblyto consider right to work despite contention over the
issue—contention made obvious by 17 absent House Democrats.
He said while he respects the minority's
passionate stance against right to work, he spent a
year studying the proposal before he decided to support it.
"I did not come lightly, or
quickly, to the stance I take now. If this proposal limited in any way the
right to organize, I would not support it," he said. "But we just
cannot go on missing out on the middle-class jobs our state needs, just because
of this one issue."
House Minority Leader Pat Bauer
Minority Leader Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, said he and other Democrats were
disappointed that Daniels is backing right to work.
"At a time when so many are
looking to the state for help, our governor's only response is to continue to
endorse a plan that will result in fewer jobs at lower pay in unsafe
workplaces: 'right to work for less,'" Bauer said.
D-Portage, said there are better ways to bring jobs to Indiana, like using the
$1.7 billion surplus.
"There's no reason that the
governor should keep that money in his drawer so that he can brag about Indiana
wearing a nice prom dress," she said.
Protestors, mostly union members
against the new right to work bill, filled the third and fourth floors of the
Statehouse, jeering at Daniels as he walked into and out of the House chamber
and every time he paused during his speech.
One protestor, Mary Millspaugh
from Montezuma, is part of the United Steelworkers. She drove an hour and a
half after work to make it to the Statehouse.
said she came because Mitch Daniels is anti-union and a right-to-work bill would
be another anti-union bill.
"I hope that our lawmakers go with
their conscience and do the right thing because it's not just the unions that
are going to be affected by right to work," she said. "It will have
the trickle-down effect, and people from us to McDonald's are going to suffer
This year, Indiana State Police
protection for the governor has been stepped up, and the State of the State
Address was no exception.
The protestors were not allowed to
stand behind the windows facing the House chambers. Instead, they chanted "No right to work" and "Mitch is a
liar" from across the balcony.
Dan Parker, chairman of the Indiana
Democratic Party, said what Hoosiers heard was "15 minutes of historic
back-patting, a few minutes of storytelling and a load of propaganda about
policies that will harm working Hoosiers, set our state further behind."
R-Fort Wayne, disagreed.
"I know there has been criticism
from the other side because that's their job to criticize," Long said. "In
all honesty, I thought it was a good speech that touched on a lot of the
highlights that have been accomplished and also took some time to talk about
where we're going with this year's session as well."
Daniels encouraged lawmakers strengthen
legislation against human trafficking before the Super Bowl, pass a smoking
ban, make a greater response to the stage collapse at the state fair, make
higher education more affordable by addressing "credit creep" and
reform local government.
He looked back on past speeches, citing
them as evidence that in his eight years, Indiana has grown closer to that
"In one, I recounted telling an
East Coast CEO who wondered what Indiana was known for that one day he wouldn't
have to ask. Tonight, he doesn't," Daniels said. "In
another, I said I hoped we would become bolder in our embrace of chance, take
our motto from the inspiring athletes of the Special Olympics, and be a braver
state. Tonight, we are."
Daniels said Indiana has come a long
way since he first took office, becoming a leader among states with "an
honestly balanced budget, a strong protective reserve in our state saving
account, and the first AAA credit rating in state history."
But Daniels said his administration will not loaf—because Indiana is "not where we
want to be, nowhere close."
He said his administration is working
hard to accelerate the Major Moves transportation program, finish the Hoosier
Heartland Corridor, overhaul the state's welfare system and complete other
Daniels pulled out an atomic clock,
given to him by a former governor of another state. He said it sits in front of
him every day, reminding him to "use every moment as well as I can to make
Indiana a place of greater promise and prosperity."
"I now have 369 days, 5 hours, 28
minutes, and 9 seconds left as the people's employee," he said. "I
pledge to use every one of them, as wisely as I can, in the service of those
who sent us to this chamber."
Timothy Cox, Alec Gray, Olivia Ober, Zach Osowski and Ellie Price of The Statehouse File contributed
to this story.
Banta is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by
Franklin College journalism students.