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COLUMBIA CITY ‚ÄĒ Gov. Mitch Daniels‚Äô flair for levity and sarcasm drew countless laughs as Indiana‚Äôs top elected official poked fun at boycotting House Democrats, the President and even himself Wednesday night as the keynote speaker for Whitley County‚Äôs annual Lincoln Day Dinner.
‚ÄúWherever I go, I get asked a lot of questions about Indiana,‚ÄĚ said Daniels, adding that he fields numerous inquiries about the state‚Äôs budget surplus. He said he tells people there‚Äôs a reason why Indiana is different from some states whose financial ledgers are in the red.
‚ÄúI tell them it‚Äôs because there‚Äôs something different about the Indiana Republican Party,‚ÄĚ Daniels said.
‚ÄúHow much more different can we be? We show up for work.‚ÄĚ
Daniels referred to the walkout of House Democrats which occurred Feb. 22 as the members of the House minority fled to Urbana, Ill. to prevent some GOP-backed bills from passing.
The state senate, with a Republican super-majority, has been able to stay functional.
Daniels also addressed the issue of education reform, which has drawn fire from educators statewide.
The governor said many teachers are upset because he says they‚Äôre being given misinformation.
‚ÄúThey were told I called them deadbeats,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThey were told I said they were overpaid. Those things were never true.‚ÄĚ
Daniels said Indiana spends the highest percentage of its state budget on K-12 education.
‚ÄúSecond place isn‚Äôt even close,‚ÄĚ he said.
He added that those opponents of proposed ideas like school vouchers, charter schools and teacher merit pay are welcome to roll up their sleeves and present solutions themselves.
‚ÄúIn this entire barrage, there‚Äôs one thing you haven‚Äôt heard and that‚Äôs one constructive idea from the other side,‚ÄĚ he said.
The governor also said there was a misconception about his idea to reward teachers on performance.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve got to get better, we‚Äôve got to improve,‚ÄĚ he said.
‚ÄúThe campaign against education reform has been dishonest.‚ÄĚ
He said the measure of a teacher will be based on the level of the students the teacher has in the classroom.
‚ÄúDid the kids learn? No matter where they started, did they improve?‚ÄĚ he said.
Daniels avoided any hint of throwing his hat into the ring for the U.S. presidency, but did say he was concerned about the fiscal health of the nation.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs like they (the current administration in Washington, D.C.) have a game plan to kill jobs,‚ÄĚ Daniels said.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs (national fiscal crisis) coming on inexorably as an iceberg or a waterfall,‚ÄĚ he said, adding that sound fiscal management might come too late.
‚ÄúIt won‚Äôt matter if this nation goes over the falls,‚ÄĚ he said.
Daniels said he thinks the Democrat boycott will help his party in the long run, being counterproductive to those who are taking the stand against the House majority.
‚ÄúOur opponents have consigned themselves to long- term minority status in this state,‚ÄĚ he said.