INDIANAPOLIS (WLFI) - Governor Eric Holcomb covered several important topics during his state of the state address Tuesday night. Representative Sheila Klinker was one of his escorts into the House chamber for the joint session.
"The state of our state is stronger than ever," started the governor, followed by a round of applause.
Something Governor Eric Holcomb attributes to hard working Hoosiers from South Bend to Evansville. He touted Indiana's low unemployment rate and booming workforce. He said we have made great headway on road infrastructure, but needs to do more in terms of safety.
"Better roads has to mean safer roads," he said. "Which is why we must join 21 other states that have already passed hands free device driving law."
He said Indiana has created more job opportunities for people with intellectual and physical disabilities, and that our recidivism rates are going down thanks to specialized job training for people in our prisons. For Representative Chris Campbell, she was not surprised by the governor's address.
"He talks a lot about our future workforce but that investment has to be made at the ground level," she said.
Governor Holcomb explained his much anticipated response to demands for teacher pay increases. He is recommending the General Assembly put $250 million from the state surplus in the next budget for the teacher retirement fund. Which he says will allow $50 million a year to be redirected to teacher pay. This is a vote that can only happen during a budget year, which won't be until 2021.
"I'm pleased to see that he's going to do some new monies for teacher salary increases," he said. "I wish he would announce some pay this year for teacher pay, but he's our governor," said Senator Ron Alting.
"He's putting money into the retirement fund instead of giving it to the schools," said Representative Campbell. "Let the schools use the money to pay their teachers. This $250 million, that should be an increase to the schools."
Teacher pay increases this year was a big demand at the Red for Ed rally in November. State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick released this statement regarding Governor Holcomb's plan of action:
“While I appreciate the Governor including the teacher compensation crisis in the State of the State Address, I am disappointed Indiana continues to delay necessary action. Insufficient school funding resulting in inadequate teacher compensation impacts 1.1 million students, 78,000 Hoosier educators, and the future of our great state. Students cannot afford to lose more great educators while Indiana decides if we can afford them.”
The final thing Holcomb addressed was the need to lower Indiana's infant and maternal mortality rates.
"To help more moms and babies have a healthier start. we're pursuing legislation that 27 other states have already adopted," he said.
As News 18 previously reported, that's Senator Ron Alting's bill. His bill would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to its pregnant employees.
Senator Alting said Governor Holcomb's message was one of overarching unity and bipartisanship.
"This is not Washington," he said. "We work for the betterment of all people on both sides of the aisle in Indiana. And I'm very proud of that."