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Column: Pence raises grade during second 6 months


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Back in July, I wrote a column in which I gave Mike Pence a “midterm” grade for his performance as governor. At the time, I gave him a “B/B+.”

The grade was based on several categories.

Relationship with the legislature: B

Spelling out a vision: A

Communication: C

Political maneuvering: B+

Policy: A-

So now that the first full year of Pence’s term is coming to an end, it’s only fair that we revisit the grade book and give him a final grade for the year.

Relationship with the legislature: B+

I think the governor’s relationship with the 150 members of the Indiana General Assembly continues to improve as they all get to know each other better. He has met with all 150 members. And when he spelled out his legislative agenda, I think he showed a much better appreciation for House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate Pro Tempore David Long than he did back in January.

I think his team is taking the right approach by spelling out a vision and letting lawmakers fill in the details.

Spelling out a vision: A-

Whether you agree with Pence’s vision, you have to give him credit for spelling it out.

Continued improvements to education via more charter schools and vouchers for early childhood education, roads and infrastructure and phasing out the business tax on personal property.

I am not quite sure that last one is going to fly far because of its $1 billion impact on local governments and the fact that lawmakers don’t like to tackle money issues in non-budget years. Also with the reduction of $140 million in income and sales tax revenue, tax reduction may get a cool reception.

Communication: B

I gave Pence a “C” earlier this year because administration officials were not communicating with lawmakers as well as they should have.

I think they have learned from that. In addition, while they were slow out of the gate to respond to the shenanigans of Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, they have done better by not letting her accusations go unchallenged. There’s still room for improvement, but they’re doing better.

Political maneuvering: B+

I would have given Pence an “A” in this category had it not been for the resignation of state Auditor Dwayne Sawyer. Regardless of the reasons, it never looks for good for any sitting governor to have one of the major picks (a historic one at that) leave after four months on the job.

Luckily, by picking state Rep. Suzanne Crouch, a former county auditor, Pence helps the GOP with its image of being not so friendly to those with “X” chromosomes. The governor also scores some points by downplaying the marriage amendment, which the administration knows is a no-win issue. The administration’s best bet is to stay focused on jobs and the economy.

Policy: A

I gave Pence an “A-“ in July; this time he gets an “A.” The main reason, ironically, is the marriage amendment. As I stated earlier, the governor’s office gets it that there is nothing to be gained by being vocal on the issue.

They look at polls too. Everyone knows that Pence is not in favor of same-sex marriage, and so there is no reason to talk about it. Instead, he is talking about jobs and the economy.

So overall, how did Pence administration officials do in their freshman year? I gave them a solid “B+,” which is not bad for year one.

Now, the sophomore year is going to have more challenges. While unemployment is down, we are also seeing a drop in income and sales taxes, which tell me while we are creating good-paying jobs, not enough Hoosiers are qualified to fill them.

They will also have to navigate an election year, as well. So there will be plenty of challenges and plenty of opportunities for Pence do better or fall back.

Abdul Hakim-Shabaz is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org. He is also a frequent contributor to numerous Indiana media outlets. He can be reached at abdul@indypolitics.org.

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