INDIANAPOLIS —Gov. Eric Holcomb called for a pay raise for the Indiana State Police Tuesday at his first State of the State address, which got him a standing ovation from his audience of lawmakers, state officials, and friends and family.
“One fundamental obligation of government is to take care of those who serve and protect us,” Holcomb said. “So we’re going to give a well-deserved pay raise to the Indiana State Police.”
Gov. Eric Holcomb shakes hands with Hoosiers as he leaves the House after his State of the State address. Holcomb’s speech included a pay raise for Indiana State Police. Photo by Christian Sullivan, TheStatehouseFile.com
Indiana’s state police are among the lowest paid in the Midwest.
Holcomb said the state should also honor veterans for the service they gave to the nation, which is why he is proposing that their pensions be exempted from the state income tax.
Holcomb used his platform before Indiana General Assembly to outline his plans for the future of the state, which includes finding a way to make use of the state’s most abundant source of energy – coal.
“Indiana runs on coal,” Holcomb said. “Let’s apply technology and innovation to find new ways to unleash this abundant source of power by burning coal cleanly while keeping Hoosiers employed and factories humming.”
In prior years, former Gov. Mike Pence said he supported the state’s coal industry but never advanced specific plans to revitalize it.
“As we undertake this journey, our secret weapon is the Hoosier pioneering spirit itself, proven over the last 200 years: the ingenuity, determination and common sense that enables us not only to overcome any challenge but also to continually find better ways of doing things,” Holcomb said.
Holcomb described his agenda for Indiana as being built on five pillars – a strong economy, developing a workforce prepared for the 21st century, long-term funding for roads and bridges, attacking the drug epidemic, and providing great government service to taxpayers.
“Indiana today stands as one of the top five states in the country for doing business and there are more Hoosiers working today than at any other time in our history,” Holcomb said.
He credits the investments in high-tech, innovative jobs for the state’s employment climate.
Over the next 10 years, Holcomb said there will be a need for a million new skilled workers to replace some 700,000 retiring baby boomers, as well as the 300,000 new jobs that he expects to be created.
“While we can take genuine pride in being ‘The Crossroads of America,’ roads need upkeep, and Hoosiers and Hoosier businesses require stronger connections than ever before,” Holcomb said.
Holcomb’s transportation plan includes adding additional lanes on I-70 and I-65 from Jeffersonville to Crown Point and completing I-69 from Evansville to Fort Wayne.
“When it comes to paying for these projects, I’m open to a menu of options,” Holcomb said, adding that current revenue sources are not keeping pace with the demand.
“We all share the goals of improving wages and growing jobs here in Indiana,” said House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City. “We all want to see a first rate system of improving infrastructure.”
But Pelath said the governor provided few specifics about how he would accomplish his goals.
The governor also said he plans to attack the drug epidemic that is taking a toll on Indiana.
“Since the year 2000, deaths from drug overdoses have increased 500 percent,” Holcomb said. “And we are 15th in the country in overdose fatalities.”
Holcomb said the epidemic causes ripples across the community with devastating impacts on children and families. He proposes giving county officials authority to establish their own syringe exchange programs.
When it comes to education, Holcomb has been a supporter of pre-kindergarten programs since before becoming governor. He pledged to double the state’s funding for pre-K from $10 million to $20 million a year.
“Our plans need to be comprehensive — beginning with an education system that gives every child a strong start all the way through the training programs that ensure our citizens have the skills they need,” Holcomb said.
Holcomb, a Republican, pledged cooperate with both parties in the GOP-controlled General Assembly to better the lives of Hoosiers.
“To [my colleagues], and my fellow Hoosiers, I pledge my full commitment to the work of transforming these promises into reality and taking Indiana to the next level,” Holcomb said.
Adrianna Pitrelli is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.