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Indiana State of the State: automakers’ $400M investment, teacher pay, tobacco laws

Indiana State of the State address

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Gov. Eric J. Holcomb on Tuesday night in his 2020 State of the State address announced proposals to affect auto workers, teachers, and tobacco and vaping liquid buyers and sellers.

He said Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will invest nearly $400 million to expand and retool its Indiana Transmission Plant II for production of a new engine.

He also asked legislators, who began their 2020 session last week, to shift $250 million in surplus funds to the teachers’ retirement fund to allow $50 million a year to be redirected to teacher pay. Together with a proposal awaiting a recommendation from the state commission, the money shift should provide $115 million to increase teacher pay.

House and Senate Democrats scoffed at the idea. Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, a Democrat from Anderson, said after the governor’s address, “15,000 teachers showed up in November and the governor said tonight, ‘You still have to wait.'”

Indiana State of the State: automakers’ $400M investment, teacher pay, tobacco laws

The governor also called on legislators to pass a law to raise the age for purchasing tobacco and vaping liquids to 21 from 18. He also wants to increase penalties for retailers who sell tobacco and vaping products to underage buyers.

That’s something Democrats agreed with. “There’s a federal law (that took effect last year to raise the age to 21) I understand already does that. So, yes, we should bring our laws into conformity with the federal law. We have to. We don’t have a choice there. That’s a little bit of a no-brainer. I support doing that,” Lanane said.

Other priorities presented by the governor during his annual address:

  • Make U.S. 31 flow freely from Indianapolis to South Bend.
  • Enact a hands-free device law to decrease distracted driving and increase safety.
  • Connect unserved Hoosiers and businesses to high speed internet.
  • Invest in Hoosiers to ensure access to meaningful work and careers.
  • Eliminate unfunded mandates and unnecessary paperwork in kindergarten through Grade 2.
  • Financially support educators who are working on the requirements to teach dual credit courses.
  • Redesign the Department of Correction education system so more returning citizens can find jobs before release.
  • Expand the OB Navigator program, designed to bring healthier outcomes for moms and babies to 20 counties.
  • Increase penalties for retailers who sell tobacco and vaping products to underage buyers.
  • Work to tackle health care costs by launching an “All-Payer Claims Database,” making it easier for Hoosiers to access information about hospital pricing and insurance reimbursement.
  • Open the first facility in the country to bring together Veterans Affairs, the Disabled American Veterans, the Indiana Veterans Initiative, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.
  • Plant 1 million trees throughout the state.

LIVE: Gov. Holcomb delivers the State of the State.

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Statements

“Hoosiers deserved to hear big, bold ideas tonight from Governor Holcomb in his State of the State address. Hoosiers have deserved that from a governor who’s been in a position to take action for three years now. Instead, we got more of the same incrementalism. 

While Governor Holcomb has finally come to see that Hoosier teachers aren’t paid anywhere near what they deserve and that our communities need, he still is offering only half measures and a “wait until next year” approach for real action.

I launched my campaign for governor with a plan to raise teacher pay to a minimum of $50,000 for every Hoosier teacher and to create a Public Education Endowment – investing an additional $300 million every year in public education, without raising taxes – so we can support our public schools and communities across the state. And in conversations across the state with thousands of Hoosiers, fully funding public education is the number one issue I am asked about.

Governor Holcomb has a history of making promises under pressure in his State of the State address, only to underdeliver. Just last year he promised a comprehensive hate crimes bill that would protect all Hoosiers, including all LGBTQ Hoosiers. He didn’t do it.

He also promised a massive investment in public schools last year, but delivered far less than expected or needed, leaving many school districts across the state to increase taxes via referendum to provide for their students, teachers, and community.

We need bolder and more inclusive leadership in Indiana. That is why I am running for governor this year, to finally get the job done right in our state for every Hoosier.”

Josh Owen, Democrat Candidate for Governor

“Governor Holcomb continues to provide strong leadership and vision for our state, and we look forward to working closely with him this session as we complete the people’s work on time and under budget. He is a tremendous ambassador of Indiana’s success story, and finds ways to get big wins for Hoosiers. We are excited about the record-setting pace of our economic development efforts, and we look forward to seeing the results play out in communities across our state.”

Brian Bosma, Republican House Speaker

“Our state continues to earn the spotlight with our fiscal stability and top-ranked economic environment, which attracts businesses large and small that support families across our state. With a structurally balanced budget and healthy reserves, we are on the right track to continue funding our state’s priorities and building on our momentum. Governor Holcomb has shown great leadership, and we will continue working together to support all Hoosiers.”

Todd Huston, Republican House Speaker-elect

“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.”

Superintendent Jennifer McCormick

“I am glad the governor finally decided to listen to the voices of over 15,000 teachers who advocated at the Statehouse for increased pay and other items on Organization Day in November. I am also happy he took a page from the Senate Democrats’ own playbook for the mechanism to raise teacher salaries. While I am glad that these two things happened, I am disappointed that he has doubled down on his commitment to make teachers wait yet another year before seeing substantial pay raises. His plan also does not free up as much money in the teacher pension fund as Senator Tallian’s plan does. Her bill can still get a hearing this year and start getting teachers more money, faster.

I am also disappointed to see that once again the governor neglected to address the need for redistricting reform in the State of Indiana. We must take action in the 2020 session to create an independent commission charged with drawing state and congressional district maps. It’s time to put the power of choosing legislators back into the hands of the people.

The governor also failed to discuss any proposals to ensure the safety of our children at school by reforming our outdated gun laws when it comes to background checks and the safe storage of firearms. 76 percent of Hoosiers have been worried or very worried about a school shooting in their community. Hoosiers should feel safe in our state and our caucus’ proposals would help ensure their safety.

Governor Holcomb also touted his efforts on criminal justice reform. Meanwhile, in 2018, Indiana arrested 22,000 people for marijuana possession. Our jails are overflowing with Hoosiers convicted for possessing a plant that is legal in our neighboring states. A majority of Hoosiers want to decriminalize marijuana, and 25 states have already done so. Shouldn’t the governor want Indiana to lead on this issue?

I look forward to continuing the fight to make the Senate Democrats’ priorities law in 2020 because these are measures overwhelmingly supported by Hoosiers. My colleagues in the Senate Democrat Caucus and I will not give up on our efforts to raise teachers’ salaries this year, end partisan gerrymandering, stop preventable gun deaths and decriminalize marijuana.”

Tim Lanane, Senate Democratic Leader

“In tonight’s address, Gov. Holcomb laid out a compelling vision for improving the lives of Hoosiers all across our state both now and in the future. My caucus members and I are ready to continue working with the governor and our colleagues in the House of Representatives to improve workforce development and education, eliminate government debt, and improve health care cost transparency for Hoosiers. Together I believe we are making great strides that will continue to move our state forward.”

Rodric Bray, Republican Senate President

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