NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF "YOUR WORLD": Well, Indiana does want them, but, lord; they ain't going back there -- 37 Democratic House members bolting the state. They are holed up in Illinois, apparently a popular locale for angry politicians I guess on the lam.
Only, Indiana's governor, unlike Wisconsin's governor, offering them an olive branch, dropping a controversial union crackdown bill that they said was keeping them away. But here's the thing. They are still away. And now Indiana Republican Governor Mitch Daniels is wondering what it takes to bring them back.
The governor joins me now.
Now, Governor, I know a lot has developed since. And I want to get clarification from you. But I'm wondering if you just got punked.
GOV. MITCH DANIELS, R-IND.: I'm not sure if I understand the question. If you mean did they change the terms of the debate, I guess you'd say they did.
But, you know, we will wait patiently, expect them back eventually.
CAVUTO: All right. Well, the whole reason for this walkout or for them going up to Illinois, this Perkins or Denny's or Comfort Inn or wherever the heck they are, is that they didn't want you to touch anything having to do with unions or right to work or any of that.
And I guess, sir that was taken out, so you could just address the budgetary issues, presumably take up this whole right-to-work thing later. And they're still in Illinois. What are you going to do?
Well, we're just going to wait on their conscience or their constituents to call them home, do the job they're supposed to be doing. I will say this. If they are going to hit the road, they picked the right state. These are the people who spent Indiana broke a few years ago. We've been cleaning up after them ever since.
Every year, they try to spend money we don't have. And maybe a look at Illinois, where they can't pay their bills, they've been raising taxes left and right, driving business away, and their infrastructure is crumbling, maybe a few days over there will tell them that we have had a little better idea here in Indiana.
CAVUTO: You know, Governor, maybe you can clarify some things for me, sir, because there have been some critics of yours who say, well, we don't know where Mitch Daniels is coming from, specifically on this issue of Democrats bolting the state.
You had said at the time, I believe, "This is a perfectly legitimate part of the process."
DANIELS: Yes. Yes, Neil...
CAVUTO: Did you say that, because it sounds what you are saying now is different?
Yes. Well, they can be forgiven, because I was a little careless with my words. Most people understood exactly what I meant.
DANIELS:What I said was legitimate was the protest by union members and others out in the capitol of our state. You know, they were -- I was just simply saying they were within their First Amendment rights.
I have always said what the Democrats did, walking off the job, taking taxpayer dollars over to a swimming pool in Illinois, was unacceptable and outrageous and embarrassing. And -- but there was one news story in which those two things were confused. And I'll take the responsibility for not being clearer about my pronouns.
CAVUTO: Maybe so, Governor, but I just want to be clear, because, when a lot of this happened earlier this week, I think I have got this quote right here, you said: "I thought there was a better time and place to have this very important and legitimate issue raised," talking again about the whole right-to-work issue.
And that was interpreted by others as saying, look, I will take this off the table, and we won't make this as onerous as it appears to be in Wisconsin. And then...
CAVUTO: Then -- then it was maybe me thinking, hey, Mitch Daniels might want to run for president. This doesn't seem to be popular with the conservative core of his party, so he's running back.
What do you say?
DANIELS: Neil, get a couple things straight. We put a very ambitious program on -- on the table in Indiana this year, things we have been working on a long time, things that these same critics I think would applaud strongly, another austere no-tax budget, a taxpayer automatic refund when state finances reach a certain level of strength, a reduction in the corporate income tax rate, and the most ambitious education reform program in America.
I didn't put private sector right-to-work on the table. Others did. And I was afraid that it might serve as a pretext for our Democratic opposition to throw a temper tantrum, as they did, and risk the entire agenda that we have worked so hard and to put forward and had put in front of the voters of Indiana last year.
And so, absolutely, I thought there was a better time to debate private sector right-to-work. Please notice that the things that Scott Walker, to his credit, is trying to do in Wisconsin, I did them six years ago. We don't have collective bargaining in Indiana. It's one reason that I...
CAVUTO: So, what do you think, Governor -- I'm sorry -- what do you think of what Scott Walker is doing now?
DANIELS: I -- I support him completely, of course. He and I talked about it, this issue, while he was a candidate, since he got elected.
And he's simply trying to do something that we did in Indiana in 2005. It's been indispensable, not only in balancing the books of the state, but in transforming state government, so it performs better. You can get in and out of an Indiana license branch in nine minutes right now. Your tax refund if you are owed one comes back twice as fast as it used to, on and on. And that could never have happened if we had remained saddled with a collective bargaining agreement, like the one that he would like to get out of.
CAVUTO: Where do you think all this is going, Governor, not only with the soap opera going on in Wisconsin, less so, but still weird in your state, where -- where -- where politicians now might feel tempted, maybe Republicans down the road, to, if a vote doesn't look like it's going your way or a piece of legislation doesn't look like it's your cup of tea, rather than vote against it, you just -- you just bolt?
DANIELS: Yes, that's why I think that the public and the press have to put their foot down very, very firmly.
You know, we hold elections for a reason. And people who are disappointed in the result have every right inside the Democratic process to come in, debate, argue, offer amendments, and vote no. If you are not successful, take your case to the people the next chance you get.
But you don't subvert the entire process, as I'm sad to say and a little embarrassed to say, the very reactionary Democrats of Indiana did this week.
CAVUTO: So many interesting things have come up on you, Governor, I guess maybe because so many are touting you as a presidential candidate, which, kudos, touche to you in that regard.
But you had an interview with your college newspaper in Princeton in which you had talked about past drug use and mentioned that you had a $350 fine, I think, for possession of marijuana, LSD, water, as you said, way under the bridge. But I'm wondering why you even volunteered it.
DANIELS: I volunteered it the first time I applied for a job after college.
And you know what, Neil? I learned, later on, if I hadn't volunteered it, I wouldn't have got that job. My life would be completely different, one of the most important lessons I ever learned in this life.
And, you know, it's come up recurrently over the years. And every time, I just simply try to face it squarely. And I was fined for being a disorderly person. And that's about what I was. But I...
CAVUTO: I cannot picture you being a disorderly person.
CAVUTO: You know, while I have you -- go ahead.
DANIELS: I'd just say -- I'm somewhat more orderly these days, but...
DANIELS: ... you know, I have never -- I have never tried to say that what happened didn't.
CAVUTO: All right.
Governor, I -- we're now and then flashing the scene at Cape Canaveral right now. We're waiting for the launch of the shuttle Discovery. It could be delayed. They're having some problems. But, nevertheless, we are wrapping up the shuttle program, only two more after this.
And -- and I'm wondering, again, given the possibility you -- you could be, who knows, our next president -- we don't know that -- but it seems like we're abandoning our space program entirely. The big-vision dreams are gone. You have the Iranians in space, the Chinese, the Japanese. I think even my mother country of Italy is dabbling now in it.
What do you think of that?
DANIELS: I think it's sad, but it may be necessary, Neil.
You know, there are a whole lot of things that we might like to do in the federal government that we're going to have to stop doing or do less of, at least for a while. The -- the debt avalanche that is headed for us is -- to me, is the most serious threat our country has faced, at least since the period of the Soviet -- of Soviet preeminence.
And, so, I appreciate the thought of people I often agree with about the grandeur and the aspirational aspects of the space program, but I think everything, absolutely everything has to be reexamined, until we have...
CAVUTO: All right.
DANIELS: ... the balance sheet of this country back in shape.
CAVUTO: What happened to your arm?
DANIELS: Well, I had a little surgery. A little -- too many years in the gym in the swimming pool took their toll. But...
CAVUTO:I thought you were twisting arms of those Democrats who bolted or something.
DANIELS: Well, you can see not very successfully.
CAVUTO: Well, Governor, thank you very much. Good having you on.
DANIELS: You, too.
CAVUTO: Thanks for asking -- answering all these questions, Governor Mitch Daniels.
That -- that soap opera continues there. He's trying to get them back to at least vote on legislation. And this is a wide trend. They all -- they all just up and leave.