Daniels, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget known for his data-driven approach to politics, defended his public sector reforms as efforts to “implant accountability” into a state government unacquainted with competition. This approach as governor has earned the praise of many national conservative leaders, but he ultimately turned down their requests in May 2011 to run for president, citing family apprehension.
On Thursday, Daniels said that a government uninformed by the lessons and values of the private sector ultimately harms trust in public government.
“Government’s consistent failure to deliver at any level of productivity or effectiveness leads all too often to a disregard or even a disdain for government, and that’s not good no matter your outlook,” he said.
Daniels peppered his address with examples of what he saw as a bloated public sector in Indiana. According to Daniels, the state’s department of natural resources charged campers similar rates during July 4 — a popular camping weekend — as it did during Christmas. The state’s last tollbooth on the highway to Chicago, Daniels said, charged drivers only 15 cents, the same rate it had been since 1985.
When he came to power, Daniels said he was informed by an old slogan from Walmart: “If you’re not keeping score, you’re just practicing.” With that slogan in mind, he explained that he set out to measure nearly every aspect of Indiana state government performance. Daniels instituted performance pay, rewrote civil service laws and measured how long it took the state to provide services.
What excited Daniels most, he said, were not reforms by a supervisor that saved the state large chunks of money, but the smaller changes pushed by low-level employees.
“We are working and building a culture of efficiency and competence where everyone believes it is part of their job to serve their employers and the people of Indiana well — and to do that at the most efficient cost we can,” he said.
This culture, Daniels explained, was what mattered to the exiting governor in the grand scheme of his governorship.
“It was not primarily about dollars and cents,” he said about his reforms. “It was primarily about delivering to the people of our state the services they deserved.”
Though he praised the state’s advances, Daniels had tough talk for the state’s public sector unions, which he called an “impediment” to his reforms and “the most powerful special interest in America today.” In April 2011, Daniels explained, he spearheaded a law that ended collective bargaining for public employees.
He did note that colleagues to his right should be careful about conveying an extreme antigovernment vitriol. “Skepticism about big government is very healthy and very American, but we should never let it be transmuted into all government, which is corrosive,” he said.
This summer, Purdue University, Indiana’s second-largest public university, named Daniels as its next president. When the announcement was made in June, Daniels said he would not participate in politics between then and when he begins at Purdue in January, when his second term as Indiana governor concludes.
At Purdue, Daniels said he would apply his signature results-oriented approach and apply it to higher education. Though he noted that “higher education is an utterly different place” than state government, he explained that Purdue would also benefit from a greater focus on accountability and efficiency, especially when it comes to the rising cost of college education and the quality of learning.
“I feel a gigantic responsibility that just as we didn’t waste tax dollars, we don’t waste student dollars,” he said.
During a Q-and-A session with the audience, Daniels was asked multiple questions by students with connections to Purdue and the state of Indiana—and even an old classmate.
As a student at Princeton, Daniels concentrated in the Wilson School and was active with both College Republicans and the anti-Vietnam War movement. During his junior year, Daniels was arrested, conviced and fined for “maintaining a common nuisance” after police found marijuana, LSD and prescription drugs in his room. He told The Daily Princetonian in February 2011 that he had no excuses to make and that “justice was done.”
Daniels’ lecture, titled “The Indiana Story,” was organized by Innovations for Successful Societies, a University research program that focuses on international development. ISS recently authored a report on Daniels, explaining that he was a domestic example of public sector innovation.
Daniels returned for his 40th reunion in 2011 and participated on a panel about the federal deficit.Click here to read a Q-and-A with Daniels, in which he compares Princeton and Purdue, speculates on the potential University presidency of CIA Director David Petraeus GS ’87 and explains why he isn’t interested in leading Nassau Hall himself.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/10/26/31636/