Political Notebook

  • Daniels' near-presidential run dissected
    In the end, it was the lure of playing the hallowed grounds of Augusta National Golf Club that brought then-Gov. Mitch Daniels and a tight-knit group of friends and supporters together in the fall of 2009 to discuss whether he should run for
  • 2 Hoosiers named to U.S. House Energy Committee
    Reps. Susan Brooks, R-5th, and Larry Bucshon, R-8th, have been named to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee for the 114th Congress.
  • Indiana House sets leaders for session
    The Indiana House has tapped leadership and committee chairs for the 2015 General Assembly.
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Gregg poll shows he’s gaining on Pence

Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg released polling data last week showing he has closed the gap against Republican Mike Pence.

The poll, conducted in mid-October by Benenson Strategy Group, found Pence still leads with 46 percent, but Gregg is now at 40 percent.

By comparison, Gregg was down 18 percentage points during the summer.

Libertarian Rupert Boneham pulled 6 percent, and 7 percent were undecided.

“Pence is better known than Gregg, yet he has not been able to capitalize on this advantage on the actual ballot. Three in four voters are familiar with Pence, while 56 percent are familiar with Gregg – a 19 percent advantage for Pence – yet Pence only leads by 6 percent on the ballot,” the polling memo said.

“With nearly half of voters unfamiliar with Gregg, he has more room than Pence to grow as voters learn more about him.”

The margin of error for overall results was almost 4 percentage points.

The campaign did not release specifics about those interviewed.

Stock advice

Who says a 3 1/2 -hour meeting can’t be fun?

As Fort Wayne City Council members debated guiding principles for how to spend money from the lease and sale of the city’s old electric utility, Council President Tom Smith questioned a provision allowing the fund’s board to vote the shares of stock in its portfolio.

Smith thought the wording sounded like board members could vote by proxy; Mitch Harper, R-4th, assured him it was only saying the board could vote like other shareholders in publicly held corporations.

“I wouldn’t speculate on your stock holdings,” Harper told Smith, “but I’m sure it’s vast.”

“Oh yes,” Smith replied, laughing. “Mitt (Romney) calls me for advice all the time.”

Where credit’s due

It’s hard to improve a Aaa credit rating, but Indiana just did – sort of.

In its credit outlook reported last week, Moody’s stated that Indiana’s decision to use a budget surplus to reduce $147 million of outstanding debt in mid-November is a credit positive for the state.

Gov. Mitch Daniels announced recently that he used the excess dollars to pay off the mortgages of 10 state facilities early.

The actions eliminate about $68 million that otherwise would have needed to be spent in the 2014-15 budget, in addition to nearly $125 million that would have needed to be spent between 2016 and 2033.

Even after these repayments, the Indiana Office of Management and Budget is forecasting fiscal year-end reserves in excess of $2 billion again next June.

Moody’s said the move reduces the state’s outstanding net tax-supported debt, which is already among the lowest of the 50 states, by 5 percent.

It also drops the already low debt burden of $2.9 billion on a net tax-supported debt per capita ranking.

Indiana ranks 42nd at $446, well below the U.S. median of $1,117.

Critics point out these debt calculations don’t include unfunded pension obligations the state has and a $1.7 billion loan from the federal government’s unemployment trust fund.

Flash drive

A national organization of small-business owners brought its seven-state bus tour to Fort Wayne last week to urge members to vote for candidates who favor lower taxes and looser regulations.

Various elected officials – all Republican – attended the event, including state Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, state Reps. Kathy Heuer, R-Columbia City, and Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne. Sen. Dan Coats sent a letter, which was read.

The National Federation of Independent Business, which lobbies Congress, bills itself as the largest association representing small- and independent-business owners.

The experienced staff even distributes information about its efforts on behalf of U.S.-owned businesses on computer flash drives.

But it was surprising when an NFIB staff member supplied reporters with the group’s media kit – on a flash drive that was manufactured in China.

Dan Stockman and Sherry Slater of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

To reach Political Notebook by e-mail, contact Brian Francisco at bfrancisco@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. An expanded Political Notebook can also be found as a daily blog at www.journalgazette.net/politicalnotebook.

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