Holcomb Gives L’burg Port A Plug In State Of State
By Mike Perleberg
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb delivered his 2017 State of the State address on Tuesday, January 18.
(Indianapolis, Ind.) – The proposed Ohio River port in Lawrenceburg got a nod during new Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb’s State of the State address.
“As I think about the future, it also includes adding a fourth water port in Southeastern Indiana, which will help accelerate economic development and play to our strength in that beautiful part of our state,” said Holcomb.
The Republican delivered his first State of the State speech to a statewide audience Tuesday evening. He used the port as an example of why Indiana needs to upgrade its infrastructure.
We also have the responsibility to maintain and strengthen our basic infrastructure that is critical to our communities and our people and yet is showing the strain of age,” Holcomb added. “This may not be sexy but it has to be done. We will pay special attention to our water needs and ensure we have a plan that’s efficient, sustainable, and affordable as we move forward.”
Being careful to not call it a tax increase, Holcomb said Hoosier drivers should be willing to invest more toward a boost in highway funding. He hinted at support of House Republicans’ proposal to increasing the state gas tax by 10 cents per gallon and adding $15 to the annual vehicle registration fee. Holcomb also reiterated support for new highway tolls, fees for alternative-fuel vehicles, and creative public-private partnerships.
The fact is, Holcomb said, existing sources of revenue are just not keeping up.
“I’m a believer that every time you ask a taxpayer for a dollar, you better be darn sure you need it and are going to use it effectively for its intended purpose. And, here’s a case that if we ask Hoosiers to invest a little more to meet the need, the return is going to be well worth it—for them, for our communities, and for our economy,” he said.
Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers say the gasoline tax increase would fall unfairly on working- and middle-class residents. Senate Democratic leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) criticized the plan for coming while more Republican-backed corporate tax cuts are set to take effect.
“I do not think that Hoosiers will accept paying higher taxes at the gas pump while corporations and financial institutions are in the middle of an eight-year tax-rate decrease; or continue with the status quo when it comes to a timid investment in early childhood education; or making elections more fair and competitive with commonsense redistricting reform,” said Lanane.
Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody criticized Holcomb for failing to mention at all the “major issue” of wage growth.
“If we are truly going to take Indiana to the next level, the governor needs to have a plan for growing wages that continue to fall behind the rest of the nation. Truly building Indiana’s future begins with expanding Pre-K, fulfilling our commitment as the Crossroads of America, and making Indiana a place where everyone is comfortable living and raising a family – on a wage that allows them to thrive,” said Zody.
Governor Outlines Priorities
Holcomb structured his speech around five pillars he announced in his legislative agenda announced to state lawmakers on January 5. Those include taking on the following challenges:
- Cultivate a strong and diverse economy to ensure Indiana is a magnet for jobs.
- Fund a long-term roads and bridges plan.
- Develop a 21st century skilled and ready workforce.
- Attack the drug epidemic.
- Provide great government service.
“Together, we have the special charge of leading Indiana into our third century,” Holcomb said. “That means we need to think not just about today but about the years to come—and we need to act with boldness and courage to solve our current issues and prepare Indiana for the ever-changing future.”
Indiana has become a destination for tech companies in recent years. Businesses that would have once settled in Austin, Boston, or Silicon Valley are now coming to the Hoosier state.
But making sure those companies have the needed workforce will be the state’s biggest challenge. Ove rthe next decade, Indiana will need to find a million new skilled workers to replace 700,000 retiring baby boomers and fill 300,000 new jobs.
“For all our growing strength in high tech too many Hoosier businesses are having trouble finding the skilled workers they need to grow. With our 21st century economy increasingly driven by knowledge and advanced skills, too many Hoosiers are not properly prepared for the jobs of the future – not just potential scientists and engineers but also coders, machinists, mechanics and welders,” he said.
The governor also called on lawmakers to pass a modest rollout of the On My Way Pre-K five-county pilot program.
He also wants support for a proposed state constitutional amendment that would require the legislature to pass a balanced biennial budget.
The new administration, Holcomb said, will focus on a long-term plan for bringing clean coal technology and innovation to the state.
Holcomb also vowed a pay raise for Indiana State Police employees. He also announced plans to exempt Indiana National Guard troops’ pensions from the state income tax.
Governor Wants Counties To Have Needle Exchange Power
Holcomb voiced support for giving counties for power to initiate their own needle exchange programs, like that put to work in Scott County when an outbreak of HIV and hepatitis C among drug users there happened in 2015.
When Indiana is in a position where it will need any adult available to meet workforce demands, losing citizens to drug abuse cannot happen, he said. Indiana is 15th in the nation in overdose fatalities as deaths from overdoses have increase 500 percent since the year 2000.
“This epidemic causes ripple effects with devastating impacts on our children and families, our cities and towns, our schools and government agencies, our health care system and health care costs for each of us, and our economy,” he said.
The governor pointed to a southeastern Indiana healthcare worker, Paula Maupin. She is a nurse who runs a needle exchange program in Fayette County, one of nine counties in the state with such a program in place.
“Thank you, Paula, for your unwavering service to those who are battling addiction. And that’s why we will give county officials authority to establish syringe exchange programs – to ensure that the people making decisions are those closest to the problem,” said Holcomb.
Holcomb’s plan to combat drugs also includes limiting the amount of controlled substances, prescriptions and refills, and enhancing penalties for those who commit pharmacy robberies.
“This is a fight we can and we must win if we’re going to take Indiana to the next level,” he said.