INDIANAPOLIS -- In a 30-minute speech, Democratic Gov. Joe Kernan reflected both his upbeat personality and an outlook he wants to convey in his campaign for a full, four-year term.
Politics did not drive the message or his agenda, he told reporters before delivering his State of the State address Tuesday night.
"I believe whatever I said tonight is what I would have said whether I decided to run or not," Kernan said.
Indiana has lost 120,000 jobs over the past three years and has a $1 billion deficit.
But in his speech, Kernan said Indiana was poised for an economic rebound, and he touted his proposals for full-day kindergarten, enhanced work force training and the line-item veto as the next needed steps to getting there.
It is a positive message he likely will carry throughout the campaign.
"To paraphrase the great baseball philosopher Sparky Anderson, I don't dwell on the past. There's no future in it," Kernan said. "There is a future -- a great future -- one built on our achievements, one based on our potential, one guided by our vision."
Kernan said that with bipartisan support in the General Assembly, the state had laid the groundwork for more and better jobs by restructuring taxes and enacting a major economic development package. He promised to do more by expanding job training and state efforts to match job seekers with employers.
"My top priority is to create jobs," Kernan said.
Republicans also have said that should be the state's top priority, and said Kernan's job-training proposal lacked substance.
"Hoosiers deserve more jobs at higher pay, but we heard no real plan to create them," leading GOP gubernatorial candidate Mitch Daniels said in a written statement.
Kernan urged Democrats and Republicans to act this session by approving his plan to expand full-day kindergarten to 20,000 more students beginning this fall and make it available statewide by 2007. He called it an investment in the state's education and economic future.
"A child's early years are their formative years, and the most critical in their development," Kernan said. "This investment will help them realize their full potential, and not send them off to school with one hand tied behind their backs."
The comments drew cheers from Democrats in the House chamber, while most Republicans sat silent.
Republicans have questioned Kernan's plan to start an expensive program when the state faces a $1 billion deficit and is now projected to take in $321 million less in tax revenue over this two-year budget cycle than projected.
But Kernan, who has proposed a complex mix of gambling dollars and other funding sources to pay for the plan, said it was affordable and that Indiana would be in the black when the current budget expires in July 2005.
"I will make whatever tough decisions are necessary to guarantee that is the case, without raising taxes," Kernan said.
Few in either party applauded Kernan's call for the power of the line-item veto on spending. Kernan said 43 states allow governors to strike individual items from the budget without killing the entire bill, protecting taxpayers from "unnecessary and unaffordable spending."
Even House Speaker Patrick Bauer, a fellow Democrat, balked at the idea. It would require amending the Indiana Constitution, a process that takes at least three years and approval by the people in a statewide vote.
"I guess every governor wants more power," he said.
As Kernan gave the speech, a chair in the gallery sat empty in honor of late Gov. Frank O'Bannon, who died of a stroke Sept. 13, elevating Kernan from his former position of lieutenant governor. Former first lady Judy O'Bannon was among dignitaries and state lawmakers who packed the House chamber for the speech.