Holcomb holding off on teacher pay, preschool spending boost

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("gov_11" by Governor Eric Holcomb, Public Domain)

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb is aiming to preserve Indiana’s $1.8 billion state budget surplus while not directing more money toward goals of increasing teacher pay or expanding the state-funded preschool program.

Holcomb announced Thursday his agenda priorities for the upcoming legislative session during which lawmakers will be debating a new two-year state spending plan.

Holcomb is seeking state money for a variety of tax breaks for attracting businesses, along with modest boosts in job training and drug-abuse treatment programs.

But education spending makes up more than 60 percent of the state’s $16.4 billion budget this year. Holcomb proposes examining over the next two years how best to boost teacher pay, while keeping the preschool program for poor children limited to its current 20 counties and $20 million annual budget.

The governor’s office sent the news release, below, to 95.3 MNC, outlining his goals:

Gov. Eric J. Holcomb today announced his 2019 agenda, which continues his focus on jobs, economic growth, health, infrastructure and government service.

“This agenda remains focused on what will make us stronger, with practical and people-centered solutions,” Gov. Holcomb said. “I look forward to working with Hoosiers, lawmakers and other stakeholders as we team up to achieve these priorities.”

The 2019 Next Level Agenda includes five pillars detailing both legislative and administrative priorities for the year ahead.

  • Cultivate a strong and diverse economy

To continue strengthening our economy, Gov. Holcomb’s 2019 agenda focuses on approving an eighth straight balanced budget as well as modernizing economic development tools to increase competitiveness, economic diversity and flexibility.

  • Maintain and build the state’s infrastructure

Gov. Holcomb’s $1 billion Next Level Connections program will expand broadband services in rural Indiana, grow the state’s systems of trails, create more nonstop international flights and move up the completion of major highway projects.

  • Develop a 21st Century skilled and ready workforce

The 2019 agenda is designed to ensure all Hoosiers have the tools they need to find meaningful work and careers. To accomplish this goal, Gov. Holcomb’s priorities include expanding the Next Level Jobs initiative, developing a strategy to make Indiana teacher salaries competitive with surrounding states, and helping more high school students earn postsecondary credentials before they graduate.

  • Public health and the drug epidemic

For the state’s economic development, education and workforce programs to continue to be successful, the state must do all it can to help Hoosier families live healthier lives. Gov. Holcomb’s 2019 agenda calls for the adoption of the recommendations in the school safety report and the implementation of the Department of Child Services reform recommendations. The state will continue to work toward becoming the best state in the Midwest for infant mortality by 2024 by establishing an obstetric navigator program in areas with the highest infant mortality rates and requiring verbal screening to assess substance-use disorder in pregnancy. Additionally, Gov. Holcomb will remain focused on fighting the drug epidemic with expanded recovery housing and further development of Family Recovery Courts.

  • Deliver great government service

Gov. Holcomb’s 2019 agenda calls for continuing to modernize state government to better serve citizens and businesses. This includes passing bias crimes legislation as well as using more technology to enable better customer service.

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