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Gov. Daniels sorry to see Thomas leave General assembly

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

- Will the governor recruit Andy Thomas for a state post? Mitch Daniels talked about Thomas's decision and other issues while in Brazil on Tuesday.

By FRANK PHILLIPS

frankphi@hotmail.com

Gov. Mitch Daniels is sorry to see Andy Thomas go.

Monday morning, Thomas announced his decision to not seek re-election to the 44th District House seat he has held for two terms and that his uncle, John Thomas, held for many years.

"I'm sad to hear that (Andy is not seeking re-election)," the governor said over a breakfast of fruit and pastry at The Brazil Times office Tuesday morning. "He is a terrific guy. I hope we can interest him in continued public service."

The governor would not specify what service that might be, saying he had just heard of Thomas's decision.

"He's a really hard worker," Daniels said. "I would have loved to have him as a partner two more years."

Does that mean the governor may not run for re-election? He won't make that decision until "some time in the second quarter of next year," he said.

Gov. Daniels took an hour Tuesday morning to sit down with reporters from The Brazil Times, the Linton Evening World and the Greencastle BannerGraphic. He was on his way to a 9:30 a.m. appointment in Terre Haute. The purpose of that appointment was to participate in a ceremony announcing the next phase of S.R. 641, which will bypass Terre Haute by connecting I-70 to U.S. 41 on the city's south side.

The $150 million project is just one item being made possible by the Indiana Toll Road lease. Clay County will receive $1,031,000 for local roads. The state will spend $40 million in this part of Indiana, much of it to resurface and widen the shoulders of U.S. 40 in Clay County.

"The bid (for the Indiana Toll Road lease) came in so high, we were able to do a lot more things than we had planned," he said.

One of the issues that remain controversial is daylight-saving time. Daniels cited economic benefits from keeping the state in step with other states that are also on daylight saving time.

"I don't think you can prove anything, yet, but there are a number of companies that believe (DST) removed an obstacle from their paths," he said.

When Fed Ex announced its thousand-job expansion in Hendricks County, a company official claimed Indiana going on daylight-saving time saved the company $1.3 million a year. The savings come from not having to change flight schedules twice a year. Daylight-saving time has also helped the state land six or seven major distribution centers in the last nine months, Daniels said. Dollar General, Sysco, Fed Ex and Arbonne, a cosmetics company, were among the companies he counted.

The governor will not be surprised if there is a decline in traffic accidents due to later times for dusk.

"We'll be watching to see if you get any moderation of traffic accidents, crime or energy use," he said.

Daniels would like to see as much of Indiana in the same time zone as possible. Even though a few counties are on Central time, 81 percent are on Eastern time and that is the biggest percentage to share one time zone in years.

"We'll never get to 100 percent," due to proximity to Chicago, the governor said. However, some counties asked to go on Central time and now want to be on Eastern time and "we're supporting that," he said.

Daniels is pleased with progress made in restructuring the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, calling it an "essential upgrade."

"We have closed some branches and opened others," he said. "There were lots of branches with very few visitors."

But the governor's goal is to have most transactions completed by telephone, mail or over the Internet.

"You shouldn't have to take your time to go to a license branch just to get permission to drive on public roads," he said.

Branches will always be there for more complex transactions, he believes.

All-day kindergarten will be on the agenda next year.

"Education will be our top priority, when there is new money," he said. But a healthy economy has to come first. He does not want to return to the days when money earmarked for schools was held for up to six months to keep the appearance the state is in the black.

When asked if he was on track with his overall plan, the governor said, "I'm never satisfied and never will be."

However, his adminsitration is off to a faster start than he had believed possible. He would not have predicted the state's budget would be balanced this soon in his term.

Mitch Daniels is not a career politician, he said. If he chooses to not seek a second term it will be for positive reasons, "that we accomplished everything we wanted to do."

After his service as governor is over, look for him to relax or go back into business.

"I might goof off a little," he said. "I've worked 70 or 80 hours a week since my wife and I got married."



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