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Governor’s State of the State address strikes upbeat tone amid ongoing pandemic

Gov. Eric Holcomb’s sixth State of the State address Tuesday evening—in person after being virtual last year—reflected his legislative agenda in upbeat terms, highlighting successes in the economy, workforce and law enforcement before acknowledging the looming ongoing presence of COVID-19.

“Even as we’re contending with the challenges of a global pandemic, we’re simultaneously strengthening our economy, reskilling our workforce, building out our infrastructure and enhancing our quality of life,” Holcomb said.

Holcomb praised the state’s fiscal management for creating a surplus in state budgets and cited the taxpayer refund of $125 that will come out this year.

The governor recognized Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year Donte Wilburn, who owns Premier Auto Detailing and Wash in Lafayette, as an example of a Hoosier succeeding due to greater opportunities afforded by state agencies like the Workforce Ready and Employer Training Grant. Wilburn received a standing ovation.

On another positive note, Holcomb said the state will be investing $70 million in the state law enforcement academy.

“To further help communities prosper, we’ll continue to partner on public safety efforts and deliver the good government service Hoosiers have come to expect,” he said.

Turning to the state’s challenges, Holcomb described Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch’s plan to focus on mental health by creating a new federal 988 suicide hotline and investing more to reduce the stigma of mental health challenges, he said.

“The task of improving Hoosier health couldn’t be more important, and the time to do it never more pressing,” Holcomb said.

Finally, Holcomb turned to COVID-19, which continues to be a cloud hovering over the state, with Indiana experiencing similar numbers as this time last year before widespread vaccines.

Holcomb thanked Hoosiers who have been vaccinated and urged those who haven’t to do so.

“We know that people who are getting vaccinated and boosted overwhelmingly stay out of the hospital, stay out of the ICU, and don’t die,” Holcomb said. “Even if you’ve disagreed with every position I’ve taken, I just want us to both be around to continue to have those disagreements.”

Indiana Democratic leaders left the speech upset that the governor offered no clear road map for the future.

“Democrats have been some of the biggest defenders of the governor as his colleagues at the

Statehouse have worked to dismantle and restrict the ability to help the state pandemic recover,” said House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne.

His party wants issues like child care, minimum wage and cannabis reform to be heard and acknowledged.

Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, said the governor’s speech was silent on the reality of many Hoosiers.

“The state constantly failing to acknowledge there are problems—we have a lot of good things from an economic standpoint, but if you ask the average Hoosier, they’re still trying to find a way to take care of their families during these very trying times,” Taylor said. “I heard nothing to address some of those issues.”

Meanwhile, Indiana Republican leaders felt optimistic after Holcomb’s address.

“[We’re] very supportive of his agenda, and we’ll try to work hard to get that passed this legislative session,” said President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville.

Alexa Shrake is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.