In his annual State of the State address Tuesday, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said he believes Indiana’s economy is strong, and providing Hoosiers with more opportunities for education, career development and healthcare will help citizens thrive. During the address, Holcomb laid out and sought approval for his budget priorities for the 2023 legislative session running from January to April.
Holcomb laid out three goals: secure Indiana’s place in the economy, transform the delivery of public health access across the state and continue to make investments in schools from pre-k to college.
Indiana’s revenue grew from $15.5 billion in 2017 to over $21 billion by the end of the 2022 fiscal year, Holcomb said. Indiana’s revenues are predicted to exceed what the state spends by $2.3 billion over the next two years and are also expected to grow by 3% during that time.
Since 2017, Indiana has decreased its state debt by 31%, Holcomb said.
“Because our revenue and population are both growing, we have the ability — rather, the obligation — to fuel that growth and utilize reserves for one-time projects, even while we maintain a healthy surplus,” Holcomb said.
One of these projects includes support for trail development. The governor said he is seeking $50 million more for multi-use recreational trails, along with $25 million to build on the state’s land conservation program.
“With this type of momentum and so much more, I’m forced to utter that familiar phrase: ladies and gentlemen, the state of our state is strong and about to get stronger,” Holcomb said.
Holcomb urged the legislature to adopt the Indiana Governor’s Public Health Commission’s recommendation to increase the state’s public health appropriation, which includes an additional $120 million in the first year and $227 million in the second year.
“We don’t have a day or a dollar, certainly not a life to waste,” Holcomb said. “Taking the next four months to get this right – nothing could be more important.”
The governor is proposing the state’s largest-ever investment in K-12 tuition support, an increase of $1.1 billion, to help achieve an average teacher salary of at least $60,000 per year.
Holcomb said he aims to eliminate textbook and curriculum materials fees for families. Indiana is one of only seven states where families must pay these fees.
Holcomb asked the legislature for an additional $184 million in higher education funding. He said Indiana colleges should seek to enroll more first-generation, low-income and minority students.
“Indiana's college campuses need to be the epicenters of brain gain, not brain drain,” Holcomb said.
Holcomb said he supports automatically enrolling eligible students in the 21st Century Scholars Program, which provides students with scholarships covering up to four years of undergraduate tuition.
State Sen. Fady Qaddoura said in a press release that while Holcomb’s 2023 agenda offers opportunities that Democrats have championed for decades, the governor fails to fund high-quality statewide childcare systems, provide solutions to the lack of affordable housing and fund local communities to improve roads and reduce violent crime.