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Indiana governor touts COVID-19 recovery in State of State

Gov. Eric Holcomb touted Indiana as rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic and called during the annual State of the State speech Tuesday night for the Legislature to support a new regional development program to spark that recovery.

Posted: Jan 19, 2021 8:58 AM
Updated: Jan 19, 2021 8:36 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Eric Holcomb touted Indiana as rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic and called during the annual State of the State speech Tuesday night for the Legislature to support a new regional development program to spark that recovery.

Full text of Gov. Holcomb’s 2021 State of the State address can be read by clicking here.

Holcomb pre-recorded the speech earlier Tuesday before it was broadcast on television and online, rather than before the typical joint session of the General Assembly. He chose the virtual option in light of coronavirus precautions and security concerns over possible protests across the country related to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.

Holcomb focused much of his nearly half-hour speech on state initiatives responding the COVID-19 pandemic. He paused for about 10 seconds marking a moment of silence for the more than 9,000 Indiana residents who’ve died from the illness over the past 10 months, saying “It’s impossible to calculate the far-reaching ripple effect of the personal and community loss of lives and livelihoods.”

The Republican governor, who was elected to a second term by a wide margin in November, strove to cast the state as in the midst of a strong recovery, pointing to state government’s top-level AAA credit rating and some $2 billion in cash reserves as allowing more aggressive action than many other states.

“Coming off 2020, I’m convinced 2021 can be the best ever,” Holcomb said. “So the central question before us all is, how can we seize this day?”

In a new initiative, Holcomb called for creation of a Next Level Regional Recovery program aimed at improving quality of place and economic development efforts among groups of cities and counties around the state.

It resembles the Regional Cities Initiative that then-Gov. Mike Pence pushed for in 2015 and awarded $42 million grants toward three regional plans. Supporters lauded its success, but Holcomb and leaders of the Republican-dominate Legislature didn’t pursue more money for it in the two-year state budget adopted in 2019.

“We are just at the beginning of developing this initiative and will work with members of the General Assembly and our mayors, our county elected officials, economic development officials and other stakeholders, so we’re ready to rock and roll when we have the green light,” Holcomb said.

Holcomb also called on lawmakers to approve $100 million toward improving internet service in rural areas of the state and highlighted the state’s commitments to completing the Interstate 69 extension project between Indianapolis and Evansville that’s been under construction since 2011 and upgrades to the South Shore commuter rail line in northern Indiana.

Holcomb last week proposed a modest increase in school funding for the new state budget — 2% during the first year and 1% in the second year — while leaving for later discussions with legislators on taking up a report from a commission he appointed two years ago to recommend steps toward boosting the state’s lagging teacher pay.

“When — not ‘if’ — when we do this, we will be one of the best in the Midwest for teacher pay, and we’ll be better able to attract and retain teacher talent, including attracting more minority candidates," Holcomb said.

Democrats faulted Holcomb and legislative Republicans for not taking more aggressive action on the issue that has festered since Republicans took full control of state government a decade ago.

“This is a third State of the State in a row that I’ve heard the governor make promises to Hoosier educators that an increase in pay is on the way,” said House Democratic leader Phil GiaQuinta of Fort Wayne. “I know Hoosier educators are tired of empty promises.”

Holcomb only briefly referenced the warnings about possible violent protests at state capitols across the country that prompted him to close the Indiana Statehouse until Thursday and for legislative leaders to call off all business this week. He didn’t discuss last year’s protests in Indiana and across the country against racial injustice and police brutality even while mentioning his hiring of a state equity officer and plans for all state police troopers to wear body cameras.

Senate Democratic leader Greg Taylor of Indianapolis said that Holcomb should have talked about calls from Black leaders for steps such as banning police use of chokeholds, along with ways the state’s $2 billion in reserves could help people suffering financially during the pandemic, especially those working in places such as grocery stores and nursing homes.

“Many were paid wages that they can’t even live on, they have to have several jobs to make ends meet,” Taylor said. “How does it seem fair that we’re going to still have Hoosiers after this pandemic and people in these essential jobs that can’t get paid a living wage of living wage?”

Holcomb recorded the speech earlier in the day, after previously planning to give the speech live in the Indiana House chamber before a small audience. But that plan was reconsidered following last week’s protest warnings from the FBI, said Earl Goode, Holcomb’s chief of staff.

“Out of that came the decision that the simplest thing to do then was to move to the studio, so it was a combination of both,” Goode said.

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 660071

Reported Deaths: 12531
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion904161633
Lake48298874
Allen35720633
Hamilton31970396
St. Joseph29796510
Elkhart25331412
Vanderburgh21192377
Tippecanoe19927199
Johnson16312356
Porter15917269
Hendricks15785300
Clark11913180
Madison11717315
Vigo11562229
Monroe10300159
Delaware9824179
LaPorte9739196
Howard9038195
Kosciusko8539108
Bartholomew7424147
Hancock7399130
Warrick7399150
Floyd7180167
Wayne6622191
Grant6413157
Boone606888
Morgan6066124
Dubois5890111
Dearborn544466
Cass542899
Marshall5414104
Henry541392
Noble508476
Jackson464165
Shelby459890
Lawrence4174111
Gibson400981
Harrison397863
Clinton394453
Montgomery385083
DeKalb384378
Knox356285
Miami356163
Whitley348435
Huntington341876
Steuben337455
Wabash330576
Putnam328259
Ripley326461
Adams322149
Jasper314843
White297152
Jefferson293773
Daviess285096
Fayette271156
Decatur270188
Greene260780
Posey260431
Wells257174
Scott250050
LaGrange240770
Clay240344
Randolph225376
Spencer216930
Jennings214344
Washington209927
Sullivan202939
Fountain201042
Starke187250
Owen181953
Fulton177937
Jay177528
Carroll176218
Perry173335
Orange170950
Rush164322
Vermillion160141
Franklin159135
Tipton145941
Parke138615
Pike127432
Blackford120527
Pulaski106544
Newton96531
Brown94839
Benton91713
Crawford90313
Martin80114
Warren75312
Switzerland7527
Union66910
Ohio52911
Unassigned0433

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