IN Focus: State lawmakers react to Governor’s state of state address

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Reaction is coming in after Governor Eric Holcomb announced plans Tuesday night during his State of the State address, which he hopes will give teachers a bump in pay.

The announcement surprised many on a subject that’s long been debated on both sides of the aisle.

The governor wants to use state surplus money to pay off a pension liability that Indiana schools currently pay. He said the move would save schools more than $100 million over the next two years, but there is still no guarantee any money saved would actually end up in teachers’ pockets.

The plan calls for pulling $150 million from the state’s $2 billion surplus to pay off a pension liability that Indiana schools are currently footing.

Just like paying off your mortgage frees up money in your personal budget, this state investment will save all local schools $140 million over the biennium with continued savings thereafter,” said Holcomb.

The idea is already getting approval from many Republicans.

“I think anytime you can make a one-time investment that has a long term multiplier payout in it I think that’s a good thing,” said House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis).

Even some Democrats, who have long called for a boost in teacher pay, say they’re cautiously optimistic.

“The mechanism is actually something I’ve been calling for a while, so I think it’s a great idea,” said State Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage).

But the question is whether teachers will actually see the savings.

I believe local school districts should allocate one hundred percent of the $140 million to increasing teacher paychecks,” said Holcomb.

The key word there is “believe.” There’s still no line-item mandate that any savings have to be passed on to teachers. And even some Republicans worry about telling local schools how to spend their money.

“We need to be really careful about invading the province of the local school boards,” said Senate Pro Tempore Rod Bray (R-Martinsville).

And even some Democrats who support the idea say it still doesn’t do enough.

“Their actual proposal does not quite drive enough money to the teacher raises as our Senate Democrats’ proposal would have done,” said Tallian.

The proposal must still be voted on by the General Assembly.

In his address, Gov. Holcomb also reiterated that Indiana needs to adopt a law specifically against crimes fueled by biases over race, religion and sexual orientation.

“Indiana is one of five states that does not yet have a bias crimes law. It’s time for us to move off that list,” he proclaimed.

“At heart, this has to do with people’s dignity and how we treat one another,” Holcomb explained. “Standing strong against targeted violence motivated to instill fear against an entire group is the right thing to do.”

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