INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Governor Eric Holcomb said the state of our state has never been stronger in his annual address Tuesday night, while also laying out plans to increase teacher pay, a hot topic at the start of this year's legislative session.
Governor Holcomb’s plan for teacher pay is for next year, 2021.
He recommends lawmakers use $250 million from the state’s surplus and put it toward teacher retirement funds. This would generate $50 million annually for teacher pay.
He says that is in addition to the $150 million they gave to the teacher retirement fund last year that freed up $65 million more for teachers.
“Together, that’s 115 million more available annually to increase teacher pay with more to come after the teacher compensation commission releases its recommendations,” said Holcomb.
Democratic leadership isn’t against the idea but said this needs to be done now, not next year.
“House Democrats put forth an amendment last week that would have increased teacher pay giving out some bonuses that would have at least gotten us to next year,” said House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta.
“Pay me now, let’s get the money on the table," added Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane. "We can do it. This is all just a delay for whatever reason, which I frankly don’t understand.”
Lanane said there is nothing in the law that says the state cannot appropriate this money during a non-budget year.
However, Democrats do support Governor Holcomb’s announcement to create the state’s first Adoption Unit within the Department of Child Services. It will bring more staff into each region of the state to focus solely on finding permanent homes for children when parental rights have been taken away. Holcomb wants to cut the time it takes to adopt to under a year.
“Not only will this new unit help our most precious population find a permanent home faster, it will also enable family case managers to focus on their primary mission of protecting children in need,” said Holcomb.
The Governor also cited some 2019 Indiana rankings. He said we are number one in the Midwest and top 5 nationally for business. Number one in infrastructure and top two for long-term fiscal stability.
While Democrats don't argue those rankings, they say more needs to be done to address the state's rising cost of healthcare and they would have liked the governor to make redistricting a priority in 2020.
Republican Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray issued a statement on Holcomb's speech:
“In tonight’s address, Gov. Holcomb laid out a compelling vision for improving the lives of Hoosiers all across our state both now and in the future. My caucus members and I are ready to continue working with the governor and our colleagues in the House of Representatives to improve workforce development and education, eliminate government debt, and improve health care cost transparency for Hoosiers. Together I believe we are making great strides that will continue to move our state forward.”
In the video above, one of Holcomb's potential opponents this election year shares his thoughts on Holcomb's speech.
And in the video below, candidate Josh Owens (D-IN) lays out more of his plans for education, and talks about the latest news from the campaign trail.
Owens issued a statement after Holcomb's speech Tuesday night:
"Hoosiers deserved to hear big, bold ideas tonight from Governor Holcomb in his State of the State address. Hoosiers have deserved that from a governor who’s been in a position to take action for three years now. Instead, we got more of the same incrementalism.
While Governor Holcomb has finally come to see that Hoosier teachers aren’t paid anywhere near what they deserve and that our communities need, he still is offering only half measures and a “wait until next year” approach for real action."
Candidate Woody Myers, who appeared on last week's edition of IN Focus, also issued a statement on Holcomb's speech:
“The state of our state presented tonight was a lot rosier than the one I’ve heard about from Hoosiers who struggle to make a living wage, access affordable health care and ensure their children receive a quality education.
It took thousands of teachers rallying at the Statehouse saying, “Enough is enough” for the Governor to acknowledge that Indiana has failed our teachers and students. When adjusted for inflation, average Indiana teacher salaries have dropped 15 percent since 2000 and a third of new Indiana teachers leave their jobs within five years. One proud Hoosier teacher I met had to make the difficult decision to leave Indiana to teach in Kentucky so that she and her family could make a decent wage. As a state, we must do more this year to show these educated and well-trained professionals how much we value their contributions."
To view the Governor's full State of the State Address, click here.