By Adrianna Pitrelli
INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb ran to the grocery store to pick up a few items, but he didn’t expect it to take him nearly two hours to return home, or to have such a great impact on the way he leads the Hoosier state.
“Once you’re sworn in, there are very few places you can go, even out of town and out of state, where people don’t recognize you,” Holcomb said. “I love talking to people, but it was a big surprise to go through the drive-thru and have people asking to take a picture with me.”
Holcomb was reflecting on his first half year as governor in a wide-ranging interview on No Limits, WFYI-FM’s twice a week public affairs program hosted by John Krull, who is also publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com.
Gov. Eric Holcomb
In that interview, which aired Aug. 3, Holcomb said the one-on-one interactions with people have a dramatic effect on how he addresses problems. The conversations have a lingering impact on him, fueling his desire to make improvements for Hoosiers on everything from education to healthcare.
At both the state and federal level, healthcare is making headlines, especially when it comes to a lack of consensus — which Holcomb said he has seen first hand.
“I was recently joined a group of other Republican governors, and I can tell you the disagreement amongst us is reflective of the disagreement amongst the U.S. Senate,” he said. “There was a level of frustration on how we are going to solve this.”
Encouraging and attracting job growth to the state will help deliver healthcare to Hoosiers, Holcomb said.
“I want to be part of the solution,” he said. “And I hope our federal friends look at ways to realize it doesn’t have to be solved in one breath or one week, but to make sure people are taking steps to make sure people are working and people have healthcare.”
Holcomb said nationwide, states can be part of the healthcare solution by having authority and making reforms that are needed, such as the Healthy Indiana Plan. That isn’t a permanent solution, he said, but will help Hoosiers until there is a greater solution. The Healthy Indiana Plan offers health insurance to those not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid, and requires them to pay monthly fees based on their income.
Meanwhile, one of Holcomb’s greatest focuses in the Hoosier state is education — as more than half of the budget goes toward K-12 education.
“We have to look at how prepared and educated and skilled folks who come out of high school with their ticket to success in their hand are,” Holcomb said. “They’re able to purse what they’re passionate about.”
Holcomb said he desires to see the state continue to make investments in STEM-based education because it is the future of the workforce. STEM is science, technology, engineering and math.
“We have to make sure we are bridging the workforce as there need to be an arc of trajectory,” Holcomb said. “We have to make it a priority not just because of cost, but because of lives and productivity.”
Holcomb plans to go on a statewide workforce tour in August, where he will talk about how job preparation begins early in a child’s education.
“I’m a big believer for making sure our kids are prepared at the earliest age — starting at four-years-old,” Holcomb said. “We have to invest in them too.”
Workforce, for Holcomb, isn’t just about creating jobs for Hoosiers, it’s about bringing jobs to the state by improving the quality of life.
“We are going to have to make investments so people want to come here,” Holcomb said. “This is going to tap in to one of the nation’s biggest economies. Not just infrastructure investments but improve the cultural amenities in each region.”
From Fort Wayne to Evansville, Republicans to Democrats, Holcomb said people are working to make improvements to draw businesses and families to the Hoosier state.
Yet, whether it’s education or healthcare, Holcomb said he strives to work with those across the aisle to ensure Indiana is the best place for Hoosiers, and a place where more Americans come to live.
“It was a goal of mine, for sure, to make sure folks on both sides of the aisle felt comfortable coming to me,” he said about first becoming governor. “If you’re passionate about something different and it’s not on the top of my list, but we can come to an agreement, then we can get things done.”
Adrianna Pitrelli is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.