Political Notebook

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Daniels stretches truth a bit

Gov. Mitch Daniels has been getting kudos coast to coast in recent weeks, especially after a national speech at a significant conference of conservatives.

Congressman Todd Rokita, R-4th, tweeted last week that “Indiana has a balanced budget and we know how to do things right.”

Daniels himself in that speech said Hoosiers practice an old tribal ritual: “We spend less money than we take in.”

Except we don’t really.

The governor has indeed made difficult decisions to cut the budget and kept Indiana in relatively good fiscal health.

But the state has not recently met Daniels’ definition of a balanced budget – ongoing expenditures meeting ongoing revenue.

Indiana has been spending more than it takes in for two years, making up the difference by dipping into the state’s savings account.

In fiscal year 2010, the state spent $500 million out of reserves. In the current budget year, the number is estimated to be an additional $150 million.

And even under the proposed GOP two-year budget the state budget would not be structurally balanced until fiscal year 2013.

Elephants take over

During a discussion about wild animal permits last week, Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington, took to the microphone to tell his colleagues about the intricacies of training an elephant.

No, he didn’t mean other Republicans, he meant an actual elephant.

Turns out a friend of his – Tim Hendrickson in Huntington – several years ago bought a baby elephant named Bett.

And Leonard helped coach her alongside Hendrickson and a professional elephant trainer.

The first time Leonard met Bett, the elephant wrapped her trunk around Leonard’s arm and yanked him against a wall. The training did improve after that, Leonard said, as they focused on getting the elephant to sit on command and other tricks.

“It’s a pain,” Leonard recalls.

Hendrickson bought several other elephants too and eventually sold them to the Philadelphia Zoo, where he visits several times a year to brush up their skills.

Leonard said Hendrickson has other animals, including reindeer, camels and a wallaby.

Mayoral remorse

Mayor Tom Henry learned a valuable lesson last weekend: An elected official is always watched.

While searching for a parking spot to pick up a package at Glenbrook Square, Henry experienced the congestion with which many shoppers are familiar. It was so busy that Henry could not find a place to park.

Like many in the situation, Henry decided to improvise and make his own parking spot. But unlike everyone else, Henry is the mayor. People recognize him, and when he returned to his car, he found a note addressed to the mayor. It reminded him that his car was not in a proper parking spot.

Henry last week offered his apologies to Political Notebook, to be passed on to the concerned shopper.

Open, transparent?

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, has made a lot of fuss about how things would be different in the GOP-controlled House this year.

Everything would be open and transparent. The committees would be the workhorse of the legislature, i.e., getting things in proper form the first time.

The committees have spent hours, even days, debating individual bills. Many of the panels have rules in which they don’t cram a bill through in one day, instead listening to testimony one week and then coming back later to make changes to legislation and vote.

But all that is out the door with the controversial right-to-work legislation, which was posted for a hearing late Thursday afternoon. The meeting will take place at 9 a.m. Monday, just hours before a committee deadline in the House.

Right-to-work – which would bar making payment of union dues a condition of employment – is a major change for the state and has the potential to shut down the session altogether. Especially if it is handled at the last minute with limited discussion and chance for amendment.

Even Gov. Mitch Daniels has come out against moving the bill this year. The governor said it’s too controversial and that most lawmakers did not run on the issue during the campaign.

To reach Political Notebook by e-mail, contact Benjamin Lanka at blanka@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. To discuss this entry of Political Notebook or others, go to the Political Notebook topic of “The Board” at www.journalgazette.net.

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