INDIANAPOLIS | Gov. Mitch Daniels criticizes Northwest Indiana's business climate and political culture in his new book out Tuesday that otherwise calls on Americans to unite to stop runaway federal debt.
In a chapter detailing his work to overcome environmental objections to the $4 billion expansion of BP's Whiting refinery, Daniels said he was "thrilled" to bring new jobs to a region that "has been the hardest part of the state to attract jobs to."
"Culturally close to Chicago in both economics and politics, and with a reputation for governmental corruption and labor union aggression, our northwest corner is a place employers are more likely to flee than invest in," Daniels wrote in "Keeping the Republic: Saving America by Trusting Americans."
In a phone interview Monday with The Times, the Republican governor stood by his comments.
"My heart is still in the project of making something really positive happen there, but there is some responsibility," Daniels said. "If you want the kind of new jobs that we've been able to get in most of the rest of the state, it would sure help if governmental leadership was a little more pro-growth."
He said Valparaiso is on the right track compared to other cities in Northwest Indiana, but said region political and business leaders should be motivated by jobs locating elsewhere in the state to decide, "Let's shape up."
Northwest Indiana also figures prominently in Daniels' retelling of his 2006 lease of the Indiana Toll Road, which he says he became fascinated with while traveling on it repeatedly during his 2004 campaign for governor.
He says he was determined to find a way to run it better when he learned the state paid 34 cents per vehicle in staff costs to collect a 15-cent toll before cars could enter Illinois.
Much of Daniels' book, though, focuses on national politics and his belief that the country's nearly $15 trillion national debt, which he alternately calls the "Red Menace" or "the enemy," threatens the continued existence of American democracy.
He renews his call for a truce on all other political issues until a plan to reduce the debt is in place and says he's willing to accept tax increases if that's what is needed "to defeat the enemy at the gates."
Daniels disavows skeptics who claim Americans aren't up to the task of making tough decisions on Social Security, Medicare and other federal spending necessary to restore the country's financial footing.
"We need a national government that treats its citizens with respect, and citizens who demand the respect they deserve," he wrote.