What makes a great governor? Need someone be controversial? In the news? Or is quietly effective enough? Throughout the 50 states, we have men and women of varying political stripes, some are leading while others holding are holding the status quo. Some are working with legislatures of the opposing party. Still others are making waves, not for the sake of making waves but for the sake of creating real, palpable, necessary change.
When I think of governors who have done things that might be considered bold, names that come to mind include Jan Brewer, Scott Walker, Chris Christie and Rick Scott. Each has fulfilled campaign promises and made bold moves that have been championed by some and ridiculed by others. Some have received death threats and Scott Walker is facing a possible recall because he is doing the job the citizens of Wisconsin elected him to do.
Out of the governors of our 50 states, these are the 10 governors I feel shook things up and did the most good for their states.
1. Jan Brewer
Jan Brewer, governor of Arizona, might be among the ballsiest, for her hard work to halt illegal immigration and protect her state's legal residents, jobs and private property. You wouldn't think that people would have an issue with the latter nor the former for that matter. You would be surprised.
The very idea that being asked to produce your papers (your driver's license/proof of identity for those of you in Rio Linda, to borrow from Rush Limbaugh), along with registration and insurance during a traffic stop is racist is ludicrous. Really? To La Raza and the Obama administration, this is in fact the case.
The idea that anybody with common sense would disagree with the idea that private property is private property, whether it borders Main Street or the Rio Grande, and thusly anybody who doesn't have ownership of said property has no legal right to be on the property is insane. And yet, Brewer has been fighting the federal government over SB1070 from before it was signed into law. Sad, truly sad. But hey, bravo to Brewer for giving a damn about, and fighting tirelessly for, her state and the citizens she is sworn to protect.
She also accomplished goals related to federalism, securing funds to help the state recover after wildfires that ruined several Arizona counties. She also made it easier for parents to review and determine the best education options for their children. Her accomplishments are many, overshadowed by her fight against the relentless invasion of illegal aliens 'entitled' to their presence in Arizona which, last I checked, was not their country, be it Mexico or Yemen.
Seeing as how she was re-elected, in 2010, I have to think she's doing something right.
2. Scott Walker
What do I like about Scott Walker? He is bold, he is smart, he speaks his mind and he does what he says he is going to do. Now onto, wait, what? You want to discuss the last part of that sentence? Which part, the one doing what he said he would do? Ah yes...so I am dumbfounded by the idea that someone can campaign to do something, get elected, and then when they actually do what they said they would do, people freak out. Or rather take over the capital, fake doctor notes and behave far worse than the children they supposedly care about.
Hello? What upside down world do we live in where someone does what they say they will do and we are angry with them? So we are so ingrained with people lying to us and our habitually re-electing them like a bad 'time to make the donuts [again]' ad that when someone does the opposite people march on the capital, make demands they have less than no business making, bus in people from other states who frankly had no business being there and bring in, ready for it, Jesse Jackson and Richard Trumka. Two men who honestly should be in jail for the crimes they have committed against minorities and the working class, in the name of 'caring about them'. Puh-leeze!
Walker has frozen property taxes, increased jobs, balanced Wisconsin's budget and re-tooled programs. And oh by the way, in case you were wondering, Walker was elected by a 52.29% to 46.52% margin, with 1,128,941 votes cast for Walker and 1,004,303 being cast for Barrett. Wisconsinites elected Walker fair and square. They also found out that the truth can be painful.
3. Steven L. Beshear
Yup, he's a democrat. I bet you are shocked. Well, just so you know, republicans don't have excellence in governing cornered. In fact, since being elected governor of Kentucky, in 2007, Governor Beshear has worked to bring health insurance to the state's uninsured children, streamlined government agencies to improve efficiency and transparency and has developed a bridge program for people who cannot afford their prescriptions.
In 2011, he retained or attracted 16 companies' worth of jobs to Kentucky. By the numbers, that's 2, 847 jobs and millions in investments. He has been a great steward of the people's money, the General Fund in Kentucky showing a surplus of $156.8 million.
He has been supportive of our military in general and, more specifically, has been to Afghanistan to personally thank Kentucky-based troops for their sacrifice, hard work and dedication. He might be a democrat but even some democrats manage to do the right thing once in a while.
4. Bob McDonnell
Virginia's governor, Bob McDonnell, is much talked about in GOP circles on the national level. However, when you are a governor, it's about what you accomplish for your state and your constituents. Like many of his fellow Republican governors, McDonnell has managed to turn a budget shortfall of $1.8 billion from the 2010 budget into a $400 million surplus, a difficult task nowadays no matter who you are and what state you govern. He also killed an attempt by his predecessor's administration implement the largest tax increase in the history of the Commonwealth of Virginia, saving hardworking Virginians millions.
Speaking of budgets and being cost-effective, the governor managed to roll state spending back to 2006 levels, slash $4.2 billion from the current budget and balance Virginia's budget, as required by law, without raising a single tax. And he didn't having anyone marching on the state capital.
The governor can claim the addition of more than 65,000 jobs to Virginia's economy, third best in the nation. Only Texas and Pennsylvania did better. It's also a marked improvement to go from 35th to 3rd in job creation.
The economy and job creation are the two most important topics nationally and at the state level and Governor Bob McDonnell has been a champion for both which makes him a great governor!
5. Chris Christie
Being a northerner, I love blunt, tell-it-like-it-is people. Whether I like what is coming from their mouths may be a different conversation. Enter Chris Christie. He came into office on the heels of the Corzine administration, which was corrupt, compromised and in debt.
Since he has been governor of New Jersey, with a democratic legislature, Christie has balanced the budget, streamlined government to make it easier to use and less difficult to get things done. Governor Christie has created an environment in New Jersey that has brought more than 55,000 private-sector jobs to the state, a critical step to economic improvement in an ailing state.
When a rare hurricane, the lovely if deadly Irene, came to visit New Jersey, Christie took it very seriously. Sadly, though Irene's initial onslaught wasn't nearly as serious as had been predicted, a good thing in a state ill-prepared for hurricanes, the aftermath was devastating. Luckily, Christie's response was swift and he is working to get issues that have long plagued New Jersey's riverside communities resolved.
While nothing gets done in 5 minutes or 5 months, if Christie's tough and blunt stance with teachers and teachers' unions are any indication of his dedication to getting things done, New Jersey is in excellent hands.
6. Nicky Haley
Some governors accomplish great things in spite of holier-than-thou media and people not blessed with old-fashioned common sense. South Carolina's freshman governor who is the state's first woman and first minority governor, being of Indian descent, has accomplished big things in her first year as governor.
When the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Boeing to stop them from opening a plant that would provide thousands of high paying jobs outside of Charleston, it made national news. Haley publicly called on President Obama to tell the NLRB to stand down. The president would rather have jobs go overseas than allow non-union jobs to be created. Haley was appalled, as we all should be. After the union in Washington state locked Boeing into a year's long union contract, the NLRB dropped their complaint against Boeing over their Charleston plant.
In an effort to improve public trust and transparency in government, Haley signed legislation into law which requires legislators to cast more votes on the record, a good thing for the people of South Carolina. She has worked to make government smaller and more user-friendly as well. She has gotten tort reform passed, making it harder to file frivolous lawsuits, which is wonderful when you are trying to lure companies, and much needed jobs, to your state.
Finally, and perhaps most controversially, Governor Haley joined the ranks of the stupid and racist! She had the nerve to sign illegal immigration legislation requiring law enforcement to check the immigration status of drivers pulled over in traffic stops. Honestly, that's neither racist nor stupid, it's common sense! It's only racist if you aren't smart enough to realize that being illegally here in the US doesn't have a race or ethnicity. Additionally, she signed into law legislation requiring people to show a government issued photo ID when voting. Again, common sense. If you have to show ID to get liquor, Sudafed, cigarettes and a welfare check, you already have a government issued photo ID. So tell me again, what the problem is? Like other states, Eric Holder's DOJ is fighting her over this.
Overall, Haley has broken barriers and busted through stereotypes. She has been a staunch advocate for the people of her state, for free market economics and for bringing jobs to, and keeping jobs in, South Carolina, a state with an unemployment rate above the national average. She has brought common sense leadership to South Carolina!
7. Rick Scott
Another of the country's freshman governors, Rick Scott has been in the news and not always in a good way. When you suggest that welfare recipients should be accountable to the state and should be drug-free in order to get benefits, which involves drug testing, of course, generally speaking it doesn't go over well in our entitlement heavy society. Scott considers this an accomplishment. His detractors think it's the worst thing since...well, let's just say they are not amused and that's being nice. Indeed, no matter the numbers, the mere suggestion of drug testing or accountability in welfare or state benefit recipients elicits suggestions of racism. Sigh. Raise your hand if you have heard that one before.
Governor Scott also reduced spending by $700 million by eliminating duplicate services and cutting wasteful spending, reformed Florida's education system so it's easier to fire bad teachers and tenure is gone. Like every other private industry, teachers must earn, and work to keep, their jobs by teaching Florida's children well. Also on the education front, Scott has encouraged charter school development, believing giving parents more choices will push public schools to improve their performance.
Governor Scott, while not the most popular person ever elected governor in Florida, even among the GOP, has made bold, money saving moves to save Florida desperately needs funds. That should have property owners who pay the majority of the taxes in Florida happy, no matter their political leanings.
8. Tom Corbett
In a purple state, Governor Tom Corbett has stirred up some controversy. His list of 2011 accomplishments mentions, and notes the failings of, his predecessors, Republican and Democrat alike. Very unusual, and apparently not kosher, indeed.
In fact, Governor Corbett's accomplishments do stand as a positive record of achievements that have helped grow Pennsylvania and create jobs and a much more business-friendly environment. Let's discuss the highlights of Corbett's first year in office as the governor of Pennsylvania.
In June, Corbett presided over the first on-time budget in 9 years in Pennsylvania and, like other Republican governors, the budget was balanced without raising taxes. By controlling spending, it also erased a $4.2 billion shortfall. Pennsylvania's FY 2011-12 budget does something Washington might consider: spending only the revenues it brings in. Why is that complicated? Shouldn't be!
In addition to his budgetary accomplishments, the governor has supported a proposal that would provide good paying jobs to Pennsylvanians in addition to making the state an energy leader in mining shale for natural gas.
The governor has also been a champion for commonsense education reforms, including setting aside funds for families to send children to the school of their choice, whether public or private and encouraging charter schools.
Corbett encourages transparency in government and cutting waste as well. These are just the highlights but they are just a few of the many accomplishments that make him one of my top 10 governors of 2011.
9. Sean Parnell
Alaska's governor Sean Parnell, the 10th governor of the state, has accomplished much in his first year in office, having succeeded former governor Sarah Palin, who stepped down in the wake of multiple lawsuits and inquiries into her record and activities, all of which either mysteriously disappeared or were dropped the moment she stepped down. It would have cost millions in taxpayer dollars to fight and the former governor refused to put Alaskans through that or spend precious dollars on something she knew to be frivolous. That might not be relevant to most but it is important to note how someone came into office. Parnell was her lieutenant governor.
Among his proudest accomplishments, under Parnell's leadership, Alaska's 2011 exports topped $5 billion for the first time in the state's young history. High school students who graduated in the class of 2011 were the first ever recipients of scholarships to attend state higher education or trade institutions. Funding for this initiative is also included in Alaska's FY2012 budget.
The governor proposed legislation to explore for natural gas in Cook Inlet in addition to expanding and improving Skagway Ore Terminal which will bring jobs and revenue to Alaska, a state rich in natural resources.
In addition, he is expanding the state's timber industry and encouraging timber management by adding to the acreage that is Southeast State Forest. He believes in planning for Alaska now and in the future.
Alaska's legislature also approved funds to address a variety of deferred maintenance tasks throughout the state. They approved the governor's comprehensive energy package which, among other things, provides funds for a hydro electric project and helps Alaska's residents increase their energy efficiency.
These are, as with many governors on this list, just the highlights. Governor Parnell took over in a difficult situation and has flourished in his own right.
10. Bobby Jindal
In a state renowned, probably not happily or proudly, for its corruption and ability to lose money faster than a high roller in Vegas, Louisiana's Governor Bobby Jindal is a breath of fresh air. Blunt and no non-sense, the governor's 2011 accomplishments are numerous.
One of Jindal's first accomplishments as governor was to institute some of the nation's toughest ethics reforms, ending the gimmes, gifts and perks that once got people with the most money time in front of politicians. The level of transparency is much greater than it once was and the state has moved up 22 spots in the ranking of good governments among the 50 states.
Governor Jindal has cut taxes 6 times since he first came into office and his administration is returning over one billion dollars to Louisiana taxpayers over 5 years.
He has also championed extensive education reforms which empower at the local level: teachers, parents and schools. You know, the people directly involved in their children's educations.
Finally, Jindal has worked hard to make Louisiana among the most business friendly states in the south. He has brought thousands of jobs to Louisiana's economy, still damaged from the likes of Hurricane Katrina, by cutting red tape and the cost of doing in Louisiana.
Overall, Governor Jindal's accomplishments make it easy to see why the voters of Louisiana overwhelming re-elected him this last fall. He has made good waves in a state where making waves was once a dangerous game.
Some of our nation's governors are making news because they are doing bold things, which, in today's political speak means 'keeping a campaign promise'. Others are fulfilling campaign promises or making news because they are going against the grain to enhance the lives and paychecks of everyone, not just a select few.
At the national level and the state level alike, the economy, job creation, balancing budgets and improving education and the lives of children rank among the accomplishments many governors shared in 2011. We have many great governors in this country, many of whom could school Washington in how good government should be.