Holcomb Says His Agenda Will Take Indiana To “Next Level”
By Mike Perleberg
Indiana Governor-elect Eric Holcomb.
(Indianapolis, Ind.) – Indiana Governor-elect Eric Holcomb says his administration will build on the foundation that’s been laid over the past twelve years by predecessors Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence.
“Heading into my first legislative session as Indiana’s Governor, the guiding principle that shapes my agenda is to improve the lives of Hoosiers from all walks of life,” Holcomb said Thursday at the Statehouse in Indianapolis. “This agenda will achieve that by focusing on the issues that affect Hoosiers most, and I look forward to working with the Indiana’s General Assembly to advance this plan to take our state to the Next Level.”
The current lieutenant governor – due to be sworn in as Indiana’s 51st governor on Monday – unveiled the “Next Level” legislative agenda for his first year in office.
“As excited as Suzanne and I are for the next four days to unfold, we’re even more excited about the coming four months, in fact the coming four years, because of all the work that lies ahead,” Holcomb said.
The list of Holcomb’s priorities include an honestly balanced budget, a 20-year plan to fund roads and bridges, and keeping Indiana focused on jobs, education and workforce development. He also wants Indiana to deliver “great government service.”
While wishes for any social issue legislation were scant, Holcomb did ask lawmakers to put on his desk a new law that would allow local officials to establish their own needle exchanges, like that implemented in Scott County during an HIV outbreak two years ago.
Holcomb is pushing for the state to double its investment in pre-kindergarten education. He has shyed away from backing a statewide rollout of the state’s On My Way Pre-K pilot program currently operating in five of the most populous counties.
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma said the governor and legislature have shared priorities.
“We look forward to working with Governor-elect Holcomb this session as we focus on our shared priorities, including fiscal integrity, passing a long-term road funding plan, responsibly expanding our pre-K program and growing Indiana’s economy through continued workforce training.
On education, Holcomb will support Bosma’s legislation to make the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction an appointed position – “taking politics out of the process and ensuring consistency in education policy.” Bosma’s bill, if passed, would not make the state superintendent an appointed position until the end of the next superintendent’s term in 2021.
“Democrats and Republicans have supported this reform in the past, and I’ve personally advocated this change for many years,” said Bosma.
Indiana Governor Mike Pence, a Republican, frequently butted heads with Democratic state superintendent Glenda Ritz early in his four-year term. Holcomb won’t likely have such difficulties with new Republican state superintendent Jennifer McCormick.
“I do not view this as a personal reflection of my ability or willingness to effectively work with the Governor,” noted Superintendent-elect McCormick. “While I value the notion of a separation of powers between the Governor and state superintendent, I fully recognize that the governor and state superintendent must work collaboratively.”
McCormick said she will readily support Holcomb’s expansion of early childhood learning opportunities, support of STEM subjects, and helping schools with affordable broadband internet service.
While Democrats won’t have much sway in the legislature due to continuing Republican supermajorities in both the House and Senate, House Minority Leader Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City) took issue with Holcomb’s “taxing and spending” proposal.
“If this program had been announced by a Democratic governor, I suspect the Republicans in the House and Senate already would have sharpened their pitchforks and made plans to storm the battlements,” said Pelath.
“We will need to hear more about this impressive array of tax increases that are being discussed here. Merely calling them user fees will not remove the stigma that comes with asking people to pay more than they have in the past.”
While applauding Holcomb’s wish for expanded pre-kindergarten opportunities, Pelath called on Republicans to listen more closely to the needs of public schools.
“Thanks in large part to previous administrations’ hyper-salivation over charters and vouchers and the like, the schools that carry most of the heavy lifting for educating Hoosier children are having to do more with less state support,” he said.