INDIANAPOLIS – Before his first joint gathering of the General Assembly, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb delivered his first State of the State address Tuesday, outlining his top priorities for lawmakers.
“We know the world won’t stand still and those who don’t keep up will be left behind,” Holcomb said after arriving to wide applause from both Republicans and Democrats.
Holcomb worked to expand on his inaugural address from a week ago, outlining an ambitious yet broad set of goals which include job creation and innovation, newly devoted resources to the state’s drug epidemic and funding a long-term transportation plan.
What Holcomb didn’t address was whether he backs a House Republican plan, raising the state’s gas tax, to help pay for roads.
“When it comes to paying for these projects I`m open to a menu of options,” Holcomb said. “The fact is, existing sources of revenue are just not keeping up. Now I`m a believer that every time you ask a taxpayer for a dollar you better e darn sure you need it and are going to use it effectively for its intended purposes.”
Holcomb also backed a proposed balanced budget amendment, investing $1 billion during the next 10 years in innovation and entrepreneurship and doubling the state’s investment in Pre-K to $20 million a year.
“Our most vulnerable children deserve a fair start, too,” Holcomb said.
The governor also wants to expand in an area former Gov. Mike Pence was leery, allowing individual counties to set up needle exchange programs without the state’s permission to tackle the state’s drug crisis.
“I think the governor did a nice job,” State Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) said, the Senate Minority Leader. “I have to congratulate him on that.”
Democrats, though, were quick to say Holcomb offered no specifics, especially on the gas tax.
“If you’re going to propose tax increases, you need a chief executive to go sell the plan,” State Rep. Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City) said, the House Minority Leader. It appears to me he’s not willing to do that.”
In response, Republican leaders said all options will remain on the table, and characterized the House Republican roads plan as a good start and a unified mission for a long-term solution.
“We don’t need political cover,” House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) said. “We need political courage and we’re showing it. We need political vision and leadership and we’re exercising that.”