Gov. Eric Holcomb delivers his State of the State address. (IBJ photo/Emily Ketterer)
Gov. Eric Holcomb delivers his State of the State address. (IBJ photo/Emily Ketterer)
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb painted a rosy picture of the state’s accomplishments in his sixth State of the State address, and he marked next steps he says he wants to take to keep that momentum going while acknowledging that challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic remain.

Prepared remarks for the Republican governor’s speech offered a progress report on state’s economic drivers and centered on already-announced plans he has to improve the state’s quality of life through economic development, workforce development, improving public health and investing in infrastructure.

Much of his address, delivered Tuesday evening to a joint gathering of the Indiana House and Senate at the Statehouse, focused on the state’s economic effectiveness.

Holcomb first touted the state’s strong economy, mentioning its nine straight balanced budgets, which he said had led to record reserves. Indiana ended the last fiscal year with $3.9 billion in reserves, triggering an automatic taxpayer refund of $545 million that will go back to Hoosiers.

“When it comes to our strong economy, we’ve earned it,” Holcomb said.

Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Mike Schmuhl criticized the governor’s take, saying it was federal aid from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan that is a large reason for the state’s healthy financial condition.

Holcomb also detailed accomplishments of the Indiana Economic Development Corp., which he said secured $8.7 billion in new capital investments in the state and more than 31,000 in new job commitments.

A top priority on Holcomb’s agenda is cutting the 30% business personal property tax floor on new equipment, which he said during his speech on Tuesday night would ensure Indiana is more competitive with surrounding states and maintain its status as a top manufacturing state.

His agenda also calls for is to revising the IEDC toolkit the organization to customize tax incentives to each business, and also focus on providing more upfront incentives, instead of just long-term tax credits. And also create an incentive program to attract more remote-worker jobs.

Holcomb also mentioned that Indiana grew in population by about 20,000 people in 2020, outpacing other Midwestern states that lost population. Though the state did grow, it lost population in more than half of its rural communities.

He referenced those population losses in his speech and touted the READI regional grant program, which doled out $500 million in grants to 17 regions across the state to make investments to foster economic growth and improve quality of life and place, to work toward improving that.

He said interest in the program, with local leaders requesting more than $1.5 million in state dollars for nearly 800 projects, is enough reason to come back and add more money to the program in 2023 when state lawmakers draft the next budget, though he did not tag an exact dollar-amount he would be looking for come that time.

“We’ll need to come back in 2023 and go big again,” Holcomb said.

Another need for 2023, Holcomb said, is investing in public health. He said the newly-formed Indiana Public Health Commission will submit a report this summer with recommendations for the 2023 budget session.

Holcomb also mentioned investments in education and workforce training, from the $1.9 billion in new dollars added to the state budget last year for K-12 education to the Workforce Ready and Employer Training grant programs.

He also included the state’s investments in infrastructure and capital investments, including $3.6 billion in planned road projects this year, $350 million in broadband expansion, and a $150 million investment in the expansion of walking, hiking and bike trails.

Holcomb wrapped up his speech by asking citizens to get vaccinated against COVID-19. He noted that two years into the pandemic, hospital emergency rooms are often full and try to divert ambulances to other locations and that the number of ICU beds in use is almost at an all-time high.

He thanked health care workers and Hoosiers who are vaccinated, saying the vaccinated are a big reason why the hospital network hasn’t collapsed.

Indiana’s COVID-19 death toll since March 2020 is approaching 20,000 people, which Holcomb pointed out is more than the populations of Indiana communities such as Huntington, Crawfordsville and Jasper.

“If you haven’t been vaccinated, I encourage, I plead, I even beg you to speak with your doctor and do so,” Holcomb said in his prepared speech. “I say this, even if you’ve disagreed with every position I’ve taken. I just want us both to be around to continue those disagreements.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report, which will be updated.
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