INDIANAPOLIS | Gov. Mike Pence is bringing state lottery director Karl Browning back to once again lead the Indiana Department of Transportation.
Browning was INDOT commissioner from 2006 to 2009 under Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels. He resigned after clashing with the then-House Democratic majority over whether to use federal stimulus funds for local road projects.
Daniels ultimately used the stimulus money to plug other state budget shortfalls.
The current Republican governor touted Browning's experience at INDOT as the primary reason for his return.
"Karl is the right leader for this agency at a critical time in the development of our state's infrastructure, and I am grateful he is willing to continue to serve the people of Indiana in this role," Pence said. "He brings extensive experience, integrity and a steady hand to one of state government's most important tasks."
During his earlier stint as INDOT commissioner, Browning argued against the state taking a significant role in mass transit expansion, including the extension of the South Shore Line through Munster and Dyer to Lowell and a spur to Valparaiso.
Browning likely will have to testify again on that topic before the Legislature's transportation and infrastructure study committee, which is tasked this summer with reviewing South Shore expansion options.
The chairman of that study committee, state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, criticized Browning in 2007 for INDOT's unwillingness to support mass transit expansion.
"We need to have a more forward-looking view. Lots of other states are more forward looking than we are," Soliday said at the time.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Soliday congratulated Browning and said that under his leadership Soliday believes "INDOT will maintain its prestigious reputation by continuing to build the economy through sound infrastructure."
House Democrats also appear ready to let bygones be bygones.
State Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson, the former chairwoman of the House Roads and Transportation Committee, said she is eager to work with Browning in his new, old job.
"Even though there were times that we disagreed on things, Karl is a very smart man, and I think it's a wise choice for Gov. Pence," Austin said.
Browning replaces Mike Cline as INDOT commissioner. Cline left the agency in June to become vice president for physical facilities at Purdue University, where Daniels is president.