INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WLFI)- Governor Eric Holcomb laid out his 2021 legislative priorities today. They focused on five different areas, all with a goal of growth and accountability. One of those priorities is the economy. Part of that will include passing a balanced budget. Governor Holcomb says a balanced budget will lead to a successful future. Holcomb also noted that Indiana is the number one manufacturing state in the nation per capita. The governor says he will seek to enhance that status by expanding the state's Manufacturing Readiness Grants to enable companies to modernize their operations. The state will also stay on track to triple federal defense investment in Indiana by 2025. He says the state has to leverage being the heart of the heartland.
Another priority will be education and workforce development. Holcomb's administration will focus on extending 100 percent funding for K-12 schools for the remainder of the school year by passing legislation to do so. He also hopes to increase k-12 funding in the next biennial budget and at a minimum, restore higher education funding. He also hopes to recruit veterans and people transitioning out of the military to police and fire stations across the state.
Public health will also remain a priority as the state continues to fight COVID-19. Holcomb wants to provide what he calls reasonable workplace accommodations for pregnant women in the workplace. He hopes to have that legislation taken up during the legislative session. He also hopes to move to a long-term care system that ensures the best care for Medicaid-eligible citizens 65 and older. Along with that, he wants to begin a comprehensive assessment of local health departments and state delivery of public health services, using what we’ve learned during the pandemic.
The fourth priority for the Holcomb administration will be providing good government and part of that will be holding the government accountable. He hopes to permanently expand the use of telemedicine services by passing legislation to do so. Expand virtual options for public meetings with legislation since communities across the state have created an infrastructure to do so. Provide businesses and schools with coronavirus liability protection through legislation. This priority was a priority by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce as well. Holcomb hopes to coordinate efforts through the new Chief Equity, Inclusion, and Opportunity Officer to provide better opportunities for minorities in Indiana. He also plans to equip Indiana State Police with body cameras by spring 2021.
The fifth priority will be infrastructure. While updating highways and railroad infrastructure will be a priority so will broadband expansion. Broadband expansion is also going to be the top issue for the Indiana Farm Bureau. Tyler Wilson is a board member of the Montgomery County Farm Bureau. He says this something that’s needed for rural communities and farmers especially as technology continues to advance.
"It's changing all the time and you have to have the infrastructure to allow you to use the tools you have,” said Wilson. “We have the developed tools but there is a piece that's missing in order to use the tool to its highest ability."
So far the Holcomb administration has invested nearly 80 million dollars to expand broadband across the state. Which they say has helped 21-thousand locations. But now they say the threshold for internet speed will be raised in underserved communities.
"We will be looking to raise the minimum speed to at least the federal standard," said Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch.
The official FCC broadband minimum standard is 25 Megabits Per Second Download and 3 Megabits Per Second Upload. This goal is something people like Tyler Wilson hope the governor will accomplish.
"The rural community has needed this for a long time and it's not just the farm you drive by on a county road but also small towns," added Williams.
Holcomb did add that fighting COVID-19 will remain his primary focus until a large number of Hoosiers are vaccinated. To read more about Holcomb’s priorities click here.