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‘Strong and about to get stronger’: Holcomb addresses future of Hoosier state

On Tuesday in the Indiana House of Representatives, Gov. Eric Holcomb (above, center) gave his seventh annual State of the State address. Many of his points echoed those of his 2023 Next Level Agenda, announced last week, with a major focus on health and education.

“A ticking clock only increases my sense of urgency,” said Holcomb, now in his last term as governor.

Holcomb’s legislative agenda highlights education, with a big initiative eliminating textbook costs. Holcomb believes it is the duty of the state to cover curriculum costs to achieve a completely free education for Hoosiers.

As for Indiana’s health care, “It will take new action to get new results,” said Holcomb.

In his speech, he noted that Indiana ranks 43rd for access to mental health providers, 45th for smoking, and 46th for obesity. Holcomb is pushing for an increase in the public-health fund.

“We don’t have a day or a dollar or a life to waste,” he said.

Holcomb also announced Indiana’s acquisition of an old rail line that runs 62.3 miles from Clark County to Lawrence County, which will be used to create a public trail. Holcomb has requested an additional $50 million to keep developing Indiana trails.

“This is Indiana’s time,” said Holcomb.

Responses

Holcomb’s State of the State was followed by responses by both Democrats and Republicans.

At a press conference in the Senate Chamber after the speech, Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, detailed what he and his caucus are planning to focus on in the coming weeks.

“This session, my caucus and I are prioritizing improving our public and mental health infrastructure, planning for our state’s fiscal future, and increasing pay for our Indiana State Police, among several other items.

“Just like it is for the governor, K-12 funding is always a priority, and we look forward to making sure our schools are fully funded. We are excited to be working toward these goals in collaboration with Gov. Holcomb and our colleagues in the House and look forward to another great year for Indiana.”

Also at the press conference, House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, zeroed in on the education portion of Holcomb’s speech, saying, “K through 12 public education is super important, which we all know is most of the largest line item in budgets and will continue to be, and so that’s the top portion of the conversation later.”

In a statement, House Democratic leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, was less enthusiastic.

“Hoosiers are some of the most humble, hard-working and patriotic Americans. More than a decade of Republican leadership has left them out in the cold. Folks in every corner of our state are sick of a dysfunctional government that aims to distract with culture wars instead of focusing on the kitchen table issues that matter most,” he said.

At the press conference after the speech, Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, and Sen. Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington, focused on the problem of college-educated Hoosiers leaving for other states.

“You also want to be able to live somewhere where you feel like you’re fully valued,” Yoder said, referring to recent bills like Indiana’s abortion ban. “SB 1 is certainly not a welcome mat.”

“There are many people choosing lifestyle over dollars, … living in communities where they feel free to be who they are,” added Taylor. “People take a lower wage job to stay in communities where their activities and lifestyles are accepted.”

Erin Bruce and Xain Ballenger are reporters for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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