INDIANAPOLIS – Governor Eric J. Holcomb addressed the Indiana General Assembly on Tuesday as he virtually delivered his 2021 State of the State. The Governor focused on how to seize the challenges presented by the pandemic and turn them into opportunities.
“Hoosiers have risen to meet these unprecedented challenges, realizing much more work is to be done in this historic moment of opportunity,” Gov. Holcomb said. “The state of our state is resilient and growing. Our foundation has held strong.”
Because of the strong fiscal position Indiana was in before the pandemic and the swift, responsible cuts to the budget as COVID-19 spread, the state is now able to restore many state agency budgets, restore higher education funding and increase it in each of the next two years, increase K-12 funding by $377 million, make new investments in our state parks and Indiana State Fairgrounds, and build a new Indiana State Police lab and new Indiana National Guard armory.
Additionally, the Governor recommends paying off $400 million in teacher pension debt, the outstanding bonds on I-69 and the mortgages for three state hospitals. By eliminating these reoccurring costs, the state frees up money to provide flexibility in the budget for priorities such as increasing education funding.
As a part of the Governor’s ongoing effort to help the state’s economy recover from the financial impact of COVID-19, he announced the creation of the Next Level Regional Recovery program. If the state’s financial position remains strong, the initiative will be designed to invest in regions that collaborate around an economic development strategy that is designed to attract, retain and develop talent. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation will lead the effort, partnering with communities that collaborate to develop projects that improve quality of place, advance industry sector development and grow workforce development initiatives among regions, educators, employers and our state’s workforce.
“Our decisions, our discipline, now enable us to do things that many other states won’t be able to do for years to come,” Gov. Holcomb said. “For Indiana, the future is now, and the world continues to hear Indiana’s engines roar.”
Gov. Holcomb also celebrated accomplishments and focused on next steps for each of the five pillars outlined in his Next Level Agenda.
Cultivate a strong and diverse economy: Pass the state’s ninth straight balanced budget, expand Manufacturing Readiness Grants to enable companies to modernize their operations and triple federal defense investment in the state.
Maintain and build the state’s infrastructure: Invest an additional $100 million to connect Hoosiers and businesses to high speed internet. Restart the $90 million Next Level Trails program. Complete I-69 three years ahead of schedule and continue with future plans to upgrade U.S. 30 and 31.
Education, training and workforce development: Invest in all Hoosiers to ensure access to meaningful work and careers. Ensure K-12 schools receive 100 percent of their funding for the second half of the school year. Prioritize finding long-term, sustainable solutions to improve teacher compensation. Recruit veterans and service members who are concluding their military service to enroll in Indiana training opportunities and become public safety officers and first responders.
Public health: Continue the “It’s Our Shot, Hoosiers” COVID-19 vaccination plan. Protect pregnant workers by providing reasonable workplace accommodations. Expand the OB navigator program to 25 additional counties this year.
Deliver great government service: Increase telehealth services. Provide businesses and schools with coronavirus liability protections. Outfit Indiana State Police officers with body cameras. Launch a Diversity Data Dashboard. Complete and share the outside review of the state’s law enforcement academy and agencies. Plant one million trees throughout the state.
Each year, Indiana’s Governor addresses both houses of the state legislature, the state’s Supreme Court Justices, and other state leaders at the beginning of the legislative session in the State of the State Address. It provides an opportunity for the Governor to report on the status quo of the state’s affairs, highlight key accomplishments of the past year, and outline key priorities for the year ahead. This year, the Governor gave the address virtually in light of recent national events, threats to other state capitols and COVID-19 restrictions.