No, Mike Pence did not struggle to achieve policy wins as governor in Indiana

by Ryan Streeter on November 5, 2016. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Tim Alberta’s piece on Mike Pence in NR has gotten some deserved attention. It was an interesting, fair look at the Pence-joins-Trump saga. Most discussion of the piece has centered on Pence’s comments about whether he backs Paul Ryan as Speaker.

I want to correct one claim Alberta makes because I’ve heard others say the same thing, and it creates a false impression of Pence as a policy entrepreneur. Alberta writes of Pence’s return to Indiana as Governor, “Adjusting to a new job was hard; securing policy wins that would distinguish him from [predecessor Mitch] Daniels and raise his profile ahead of a possible presidential run was even harder.”

Pence’s policy wins have not gotten the attention they deserve, which has affected his ability to “raise his profile.” But the claim makes it sound as if Pence did not have policy wins.

I served as Pence’s policy advisor for his first two years in office, and advised him during his campaign on a pro bono basis. So I’m obviously biased. But still, it’s not hard to count up some pretty significant achievements in his first two years:

  • Biggest state income tax cut in Indiana’s history
  • Elimination of the inheritance tax
  • Significant reduction in taxes on businesses
  • Moratorium on new regulations
  • Creation of the state’s first-ever voucher-based pre-K program
  • Creation of the only 100% HSA-based Medicaid program in the country
  • Spending restraint on par with Daniels’ spending limits
  • Creation of the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute, which is on track to be a national, and even international, leader on research into metabolic and related disorders

Lots of governors would love to have that kind of record in just a couple years. It is an admirable blend of traditional fiscal conservatism and innovative “compassionate conservative” initiatives such as pre-K and Medicaid reform (and Pence took some serious heat from fellow conservatives for the Medicaid decision).

The 2016 campaign hasn’t been about these things, because he’s a running mate and not the candidate. But it’s unfair to Pence to claim that he struggled to get policy wins, when he obviously did not, and then bring up the RFRA fiasco as if it’s the only thing that marked his first term.