APIndiana News

Indiana governor trying to sell big-ticket spending plan

Governor Eric Holcomb

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb is set to give the annual State of the State address to legislators on Tuesday as he tries to sell them on approving funding for several big-ticket spending plans in the new state budget.

Holcomb’s half-hour speech is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. before members of the General Assembly that’s dominated by his fellow Republicans.

The drafting of a new two-year state budget will be the primary focus of the legislative session that started Monday and is expected to last until late April. Holcomb last week proposed a 6% K-12 funding boost for the next school year that would be the largest increase in more than a decade. He also proposed a major spending increase for public health programs. Some top Republican legislators, however, are worried about the costs of those plans amid an expected slowdown in the growth of state tax collections.

Holcomb said last week he believed the state had the “financial wherewithal” to pay for the proposals and still leave the state with an annual budget surplus.

The governor’s proposal included nearly $350 million over the next two years for public health programs and $500 million for a new round of regional economic development grants. Among other big-ticket items in Holcomb’s plan are a $160 million request for state employee raises and a separate $36 million that would go toward boosting the starting annual salaries of state troopers by 30%, to $70,000.

Holcomb also proposed eliminating fees for textbooks and other classroom materials for all public school students by directing $120 million more toward local schools to expand the current program that covers such fees for children from low-income families. Indiana is one of the few states that still allows textbook fees, which Democrats and many education advocates have long criticized as an unfair extra cost to families.

“From eliminating textbook fees to making historic investments in public health, Democrats and Gov. Holcomb are on the same page and I’m glad to see support for the ideas we’ve championed for years,” House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta said last week. “But I’m afraid the real question is whether Statehouse Republicans are as forward-thinking as Statehouse Democrats and the governor.”

You can listen to the Governor’s address live on WOWO at 7:00 p.m.

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