INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Despite a two-year pandemic, Gov. Eric Holcomb on Tuesday said Indiana is in a position to take full advantage of its economic successes.
The Republican governor’s Tuesday night address marked a return to the traditional format for State of the State addresses, with the chief executive speaking to a joint session of the state House and Senate.
Holcomb gave a studio-based speech last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He focused mainly on economic wins, such as Indiana leading all bordering states in GDP growth and personal income growth from 2015 to 2020, and a population gain of 20,000 over the past year.
The governor also pointed to ongoing road and bridge repair projects, rural broadband installation and investment in K-12 education. He said 99% of Indiana’s school corporations will have raised teacher salaries by the next school year.
“Color me an optimist, because there has never been a more opportune time to realize our true potential than right now,” he said.
Holcomb did not mention some of the legislation that has driven Republican lawmakers in the first weeks of session, notably restrictions on how teachers approach social justice issues, permitless concealed carry and a ban on employer vaccine mandates. House Speaker Todd Huston, a Republican from Fishers, said afterward this simply reflects different priorities.
“We’re going to consider a lot of different issues, and the governor’s got some that are high priorities for him, and my caucus members in the House have issues that are important to them,” he said. “I think that’s just part of the legislative process.”
Democrats said while they appreciated Holcomb’s avoidance of social issues in his speech, they felt he glossed over issues that matter to Hoosiers still trying to make ends meet. Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor, a Democrat from Indianapolis, said he was disappointed not to hear anything on raising the minimum wage or legalizing cannabis.
“The governor’s address was alarmingly silent on those realities,” he said.
Democrats also said many of the state’s recent projects, including the READI Program, resulted from federal funding through the American Rescue Plan, which was written and passed by a Democratic-controlled Congress and signed by a Democratic president.
Toward the end of his speech, Holcomb saluted the efforts of Hoosiers to assist Afghan refugees who were brought to Camp Atterbury. He said about 500 of the roughly 7,500 refugees who went through the facility chose to remain in Indiana.
“I commend everyone involved in this tremendous, uplifting effort,” he said. “To me, it’s a great example of what Hoosiers are all about and what we’re capable of accomplishing when we work together.”
Holcomb closed with a plea to Hoosiers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 if they haven’t already. He said those who have received the vaccine are the reason the state’s health care system hasn’t collapsed under the weight of the surge of the omicron variant. The governor also thanked the state’s health care workers for two years of unending work.
“No words, salary, or earthly awards will ever be enough to repay you for the lives you’ve cared for and saved,” he said. “The ultimate judge will be kind to you for living your love for your neighbor.”