INDIANAPOLIS – Expanding broadband access across Indiana, attracting remote workers and providing better access to mental health services are just a few of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s plans for 2022.
Holcomb announced his administrative and legislative goals for the Hoosier State Monday afternoon. His agenda included five pillars:
- Economic development
- Education, training and workforce development
- Public health and wellness development
- Community development
- Good government service
“The 2022 Next Level Agenda builds a foundation for a healthier state,” Holcomb said. “These priorities will cultivate a more competitive environment to attract new economic development opportunities, establish better access to public health resources and help connect Hoosiers to better employment and training opportunities. Our efforts will advance Indiana’s reputation as a state Hoosiers want to live, work, play, study and stay.”
Holcomb proposed eliminating the 30% business personal property tax floor on new equipment “to encourage those continued investments in the state of Indiana and to continue to build out that very important sector to our state’s economy.”
Democrats have concerns about that idea since the tax helps fund local governments.
“Locals have been tied up to pay for just traditional services,” said Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis). “Now we’re going to take another source of revenue from them.”
Holcomb said the state would make sure local governments do not lose that funding.
Other priorities include:
- Create a new funding mechanism to more competitively invest in transformational economic development opportunities
- Provide greater flexibility within our existing economic tax credit incentive programs
- Incentivize and attract more remote worker jobs to Indiana.
The governor said he’ll work with the legislature to make sure 900,000 more Hoosiers receive the automatic taxpayer refund they’re due this tax season.
Holcomb also addressed proposed tax cuts in Indiana. While he’s glad Indiana is in a good enough economic position to consider a tax cut, he’s keeping an eye on the long-term impact of federal pandemic relief programs and inflation. He did not rule out considering other tax cuts this year.
Holcomb also discussed the state’s surplus, saying he does not want to spend it until the budget is rewritten in 2023. One way he would like to see the funding used is to help strengthen the state’s workforce.
“We also know that just like every business out there, having talent is paramount to your success,” Holcomb said. “I want to make sure that we’re able to retain and recruit the best talent to state government. This is going to require an investment as well in 2023.”
House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) expressed disappointment over Holcomb’s preference to wait until 2023 to spend any of the state’s surplus.
“It’s troubling to hear that another 12 months are needed to make these investments – at the same time he proposes eliminating the 30% business personal property tax floor this year,” GiaQuinta said in a statement. “If we can open the budget for business, surely we can open it for our people, too.”
Republican legislative leaders said they share Holcomb’s desire to focus on the state’s economy.
“One thing I am particularly interested in, like the governor, is the opportunity to update our economic development tools to help our state continue to become more competitive, create good-paying jobs for all Hoosiers and attract new talent to our state,” Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray (R-Martinsville) said in a statement.
“House Republicans also remain focused on our efforts to support Hoosier families and keep money in taxpayers’ pockets,” House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) said in a statement.
Education, training and workforce development
The governor has directed the Department of Education to create an Office of Kindergarten Readiness to work with the early childhood team at the Family and Social Services Administration and a revised Early Learning Advisory Committee (ELAC) to support kindergarten readiness.
The state will also move forward with a new school performance dashboard that will focus on “how students are building skills for success beyond the classroom.” Indiana will establish a new teacher supply-and-demand marketplace to connect educators with job opportunities throughout the state.
The governor also said the state will strengthen its data-driven public workforce system to connect unemployed Hoosiers with companies, jobs and training programs.
Public health and wellness development
Holcomb is calling on an expansion of services to help Hoosiers with mental health challenges, providing easier access to people in need of services. He and Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch hope to remove the stigma by building awareness and expanding education about mental health.
The Governor’s Public Health Commission will develop recommendations to improve public health infrastructure and resources in the state.
The state also plans to expand data collection to better understand the causes behind sudden, unexplained infant deaths in Indiana.
Holcomb said the administration would create guidelines for universal lead screening and connect children with proper care.
Holcomb extended the state’s public health emergency through the end of January, renewing it for the 22nd time.
The governor said he would bring an end to the public health emergency spurred by the coronavirus pandemic if the legislature made three key changes:
- Allow for the continuation of enhanced federal matching funds for Medicaid expenditures
- Allow for the continuation of the enhanced benefit for those receiving federal food assistance
- Extend the ability to efficiently vaccinate 5- to 11-year-olds
Holcomb said he was working with the legislature on those changes and emphasized that the public health emergency remained in place to make sure the state had access to funds from federal programs. He mentioned that, even if the public health emergency came to an end, Indiana would still be in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The agenda calls for the establishment of a grant program to help local governments strengthen cybersecurity.
State government will help oversee the implementation of the $500 million READI program as 17 regions begin developing their plans for the money. The Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI) is funded by the federal government’s American Rescue Plan. The money will pay for the construction of housing, businesses and amenities like parks.
Holcomb and Crouch said they wanted to focus on capital projects to improve infrastructure for roads, trails, broadband and facility projects. Much of the money has already been appropriated, and some of the projects were halted at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Broadband, Crouch said, is especially essential in attracting remote workers to Indiana. She said the goal was to make sure every Hoosier had access to broadband internet.
Good government service
Holcomb said the state plans to address the regulatory and statutory changes suggested by a third-party review of the state’s law enforcement agencies.
The state plans to:
- Work with legislative leaders to enhance membership of the Law Enforcement Training Board to include more civilians as well as all satellite academy directors as voting members
- Establish personnel at the Law Enforcement Training Board to expand development and oversight of statewide training and curriculum that includes implicit bias and cultural awareness
- Develop a strategic plan for Indiana State Police to accomplish recruiting and diversity goals
- Modernize state law enforcement information systems to better track and analyze performance metrics
The 2022 agenda includes a focus on firefighter safety by establishing a program that collects and properly disposes of PFAS, chemicals found in firefighting foam that can have adverse health effects, the governor said.