Governor Holcomb delivers 2022 State Of The State address

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(Photo supplied/State of Indiana)

Governor Eric Holcomb addressed a joint convention of the Indiana General Assembly on Tuesday, Jan. 11, as he delivered his 2022 State of the State Address.

The Governor’s progress report celebrated accomplishments and focused on next steps to enhance the quality of life for all Hoosiers by strengthening the economy, reskilling the workforce and expanding the state’s infrastructure.

“Hoosiers have proven throughout the pandemic that they are resilient and have a spirit that can’t be broken,” Gov. Holcomb said. “It’s the foundation of who we are and what we strive to be and together we can build an even better Indiana.”

Indiana continues its strong fiscal position. The 2021 state fiscal year closed with $3.9 billion in reserves resulting in an automatic taxpayer refund and reduction of pension obligations.

“When it comes to our strong economy, we’ve earned it,” Gov. Holcomb said. “Sound fiscal management over time has become our state’s reputation.”

As further support of Indiana’s stable positions, the Governor reported state’s robust workforce environment is experiencing its lowest unemployment rate in 21 years at 3%, and more Hoosiers are working today than before the pandemic

“It’s a time of unprecedented growth,” Gov. Holcomb said. “We’re revitalizing and connecting our communities across the state like never before to enhance and elevate the quality of life for all Hoosiers.”

Gov. Holcomb recognized the two-year battle against COVID-19 and the exhausting toll on our healthcare system. He took time to thank healthcare providers for their commitment to caring for Hoosiers and to the 3.5 million people who are vaccinated to protect themselves and their loved ones against COVID-19.

Each year, Indiana’s Governor addresses both houses of the state legislature, the state’s Supreme Court Justices, and other state leaders at the beginning of the legislative session in the State of the State Address. It provides an opportunity for the Governor to report on the status of the state’s affairs, highlight key accomplishments of the past year and outline top priorities for the year ahead.

A transcript of the Governor’s speech is below:

Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Madam Chief Justice, Lt. Governor, members of the
General Assembly, my fellow Hoosiers, it is indeed an honor to once again discuss
the state of our great state and the work before us as we seek to make life better for
all Hoosiers.

Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity;
an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Ladies and gentlemen, color me an optimist, because there has never been a more
opportune time to realize our true potential than right now.

Even as we’re contending with the challenges of a global pandemic, we’re
simultaneously strengthening our economy, reskilling our workforce, building out
our infrastructure, and enhancing our quality of life. And now, because we’re ready
and able, we’re revitalizing and connecting our communities across the state like
never before.

Tonight, I’ll report on what we’re doing for our economy, our people, and our
communities.

When it comes to our strong economy, we’ve earned it. Sound fiscal management
over time has become our state’s reputation.

We’ve produced nine straight honestly balanced budgets since 2005. And from
June of 2017 to June of 2021, we’ve reduced our debt by 24 percent. Thank you,
Senator Mishler and Doc Brown.

Our discipline has led us to record revenue and reserves, and we remain just one
of 13 states that has received a Triple A credit rating from all three primary rating
agencies.

We closed the 2021 fiscal year with $3.9 billion in reserves, so we put an extra
$1.1 billion toward our obligation to our teachers’ pension fund. And we’re
sending $545 million back to Hoosier taxpayers in the form of an automatic
taxpayer refund.

Our rigorous oversight of taxpayer money has solidified Indiana’s distinction as a
place of investment-certainty, stability, predictability, and continuity that our
families and businesses love and our neighbors envy.

Among every state we border, Indiana now ranks No. 1 in GDP growth from 2015
to 2020. In fact, our GDP has grown from $353 billion in 2017 to now $415
billion, at a rate outpacing Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, and Kentucky.

We rank No. 1 among those states in personal income growth from 2015 to 2020
as well.

And our unemployment rate – 3 percent – is our lowest in 21 years and lower than
every state we touch.

Today, 73,000 more Hoosiers are working compared to just before the pandemic
hit.

In another measure of our growth and vitality, more people are choosing to live in
Indiana.

Since 2010, our population has increased by 300,000 people, far eclipsing the rate
of any neighboring state.

In fact, the U.S. Census just put out that from July 2020 to July 2021, Indiana saw
more people move to our state than any of the 11 other states that make up the
entire Midwest region. We increased our population by 20,000 people at the same
time Ohio lost 10,000, Michigan lost 16,000, and Illinois lost 113,000 residents.
U-Haul just released its annual report showing Indiana ranked 6th-highest in the
nation for inbound migration.

And it’s not just individuals who are choosing Indiana. Businesses are, too.
Our last four years have been record-breaking years of investment and job
commitments.

Last year, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. set all-time records in three
key categories:
• $8.7 billion in new capital investment
• Over $1.8 billion in new payroll
• And 31,700 new job commitments with average wages over $28 an hour.

We saw 29 new headquarters plant their flag in Indiana, both home-grown startups and out-of-state relocations. Our monthly single-family home building permits
are more than every state we touch and our statewide home sales are hot.
Ladies and gentlemen, the state of our economy is Indiana strong!
Strong like Indiana steel. We’re No. 1 in the country for steel production, part of
our rich heritage.

And we’re also becoming a magnet for the industries of the future, such as
hypersonics, microelectronics, cyber, solar, drones, quantum computing, advanced
manufacturing, plant genetics, and battery technology. I could keep going, so I
will.

For example, we’re putting new energy into new energy. More and more solar
projects are cropping up all across our state.

After I visited Tel Aviv last year, Israel-based Doral Renewables announced they
were building the largest solar farm in the United States on 13,000 acres in Starke
and Pulaski counties.

Eventually, it will generate enough electricity to power hundreds of thousands of
homes, all by cultivating the sun.

Thank you, Nick, for your incredible investment in Indiana.

These industries make Indiana the shiny new buckle on what used to be known as
the old Rust Belt.

And, to keep this momentum going, we need to revise the Indiana Economic Development Corp.’s toolkit to:
• Invest in once-in-a-lifetime, transformational opportunities
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• Provide greater flexibility within our existing tax-credit incentive programs
• Recruit more remote-worker jobs
• And, as the No. 1 manufacturing state in America per capita, we must
eliminate the 30 percent business personal property tax floor on new
equipment to instantly ensure Indiana is more competitive with surrounding
states, encouraging further capital investment here, and positioning us to
become an even more dominant player in the advanced manufacturing age.

So, herein lies our most pressing challenge. With more than 150,000 current job
openings posted and a record number of new jobs coming, we need to ensure all
Hoosier students and workers can, and will, fill them.

That starts in the classroom, which is why, with your support, the budget passed
last session. We made historic investments in education.

We’re investing a record $1.9 billion in new dollars for K-12 education over the
biennium, and we’re increasing the K-12 tuition-support formula by 9 percent,
which is more than $1 billion.

That investment is already paying big dividends.

More than 85 percent of school corporations raised teacher base salaries by an
average of nearly $1,800 in the 2020-2021 school year, and 99 percent are
expected to raise salaries in the current school year.

The state’s goal for new teacher salaries is $40,000 by July 1. Some 80 percent of
schools will have achieved that goal.

Their partners at our Department of Education are laser-focused on providing more
pathways and opportunities for lifelong student success, be it enlistment,
employment, or enrollment.

Those efforts start early in life, so we must strengthen both the quality and access
to early learning opportunities all across Indiana from birth to age 5 to better
prepare students for kindergarten and everything beyond it.

Moreover, we know our children have suffered academically because of the
pandemic.

So, in response, last year, the DOE launched several accelerated learning
programs, totaling nearly $160 million extra, with a second round underway.
And we’ll be rolling out the Graduates Prepared to Succeed Dashboard, so for the
first time, parents, community leaders, and school corporations themselves can
have easy public access to robust data regarding school performance.

And let’s make progress on strengthening our teacher pipeline and attracting and
retaining more educators, focusing on diversity and teachers in high-need areas,
like in special education and STEM.

To do that, we’ll launch a statewide teacher marketplace that connects them with
school openings in real time.

While education is the starting point, we must do more to align our state’s K-12,
higher ed, workforce, and economic development efforts. There is power in their
synergy.

That’s why we launched the one-stop-shop website that proactively
connects unemployed and underemployed Hoosiers with customized job and
training opportunities.

Two-hundred and forty employers and 16,000 individuals have already created
profiles.

And our Workforce Ready and Employer Training Grant programs continue to
move more Hoosiers into higher-paying jobs and increase the number of people
achieving a post-secondary education.

Since 2017, more than 52,000 Hoosiers have enrolled in our Workforce Ready
program, and those who earned a credit saw an average wage gain of $6,800 a
year.

And through our Employer Training Grant program, 3,700 employers have trained
more than 41,000 Hoosiers, and they achieved an average pay raise of over
$4,000 a year.

All these programs give Indiana a leg up in growing our businesses and bringing in
new ones.

A great example is Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year Donte Wilburn, who
owns Premier Auto Detailing and Wash in Lafayette.

As a troubled youth, Donte served a three-year sentence in community corrections.
But a work-release program enabled him to work at an auto detailing company and
finish a degree at Purdue.

He had big ambitions, so he started his own detailing company with a goal not just
to make money, but also to give employees opportunities for careers and
advancement.

Today, he owns several businesses, has 40 employees, and continues to expand.
Donte says, “State agencies have been the backbone of my growth and there is no
way I could have done it without them.”

We want more Donte Wilburns, and more Hoosiers to have greater opportunities to
succeed.

Donte, thank you for making a difference, and thank you for joining us tonight.
Now, as we strengthen Hoosier talent, we also must strengthen Hoosier health.
While we’ve made progress in areas like reducing infant mortality, we have a lot of
work ahead to truly be clicking on all cylinders.

Here are the facts: Indiana ranks 46th in obesity, 46th in smoking, and 40th in childhood immunizations, each of which can lead to life-threatening and costly complications down the road.

Like everywhere else in America, our efforts to tackle addiction in our
communities have been compounded by the pandemic and we’ve seen increased
fentanyl use. So we must double down to reach more people with substance use
disorder and get them into recovery and back to their families, work, or school.
Lieutenant Governor Crouch has made it her personal mission to promote a
comprehensive strategy to support Hoosier mental health, which has never been
more important.

Our strategy includes making investments to grow our mental health workforce
with more recruitment, retention, and quality efforts by:
• Expanding access to mental health services
• Rolling out the new federal 988 Suicide Hotline
• And investing more to reduce the stigma of mental health challenges

We will also promote young Hoosier health and wellness by strengthening the
guidelines for childhood lead screening and gathering more knowledge about the
causes of sudden infant deaths so we can continue reducing infant mortality and
saving these precious lives.

The task of improving Hoosier health couldn’t be more important and the time to
do it, never more pressing.

To realize new results, addressing these challenges will require new approaches.

That’s why the Indiana Public Health Commission will submit a report this
summer with recommendations ready for the 2023 budget session, so we can
modernize and strengthen the state’s public health system overall, one person at a
time.

Even as we put renewed efforts into public health, we’re maintaining our
aggressive pace to build a 21st century infrastructure network that links Hoosiers
to each other, the nation, and the world of opportunities before us.
We’re in the midst of deploying $60 billion over 20 years to expand and enhance
the roads and bridges that connect our communities, paid for with cash, not debt
financed.

We’re investing $3.6 billion just this year in road projects throughout Indiana.

And we’re near completion, three years ahead of schedule, on I-69, which will
create one continuous route from Canada all the way to our nation’s southern
border.

Add to that, through our Community Crossings program, cities, towns and counties
have resurfaced or reconstructed more than 20,000 lane-miles of road and repaired
or replaced 119 bridges in just the last four years.

We’re also working with our federal and local partners to fast-track two of the
nation’s most transformational commuter rail projects.

When the South Shore double track and West Lake Corridor projects are
completed, they won’t just reduce travel times, they’ll fuel an explosion of new
investment and opportunity in Northwest Indiana.

We’ll continue working toward the construction of a number of new capital
projects throughout the state, including $420 million committed
to wastewater, drinking water, and stormwater infrastructure improvements, and
$780 million for a new state archives building, Westville Correctional facility,
blind and deaf schools and a new inn at Potato Creek State Park, DNR’s first
since 1939.

We’re also in the middle of the largest expansion of walking, hiking and biking
trails in our state’s history, investing up to $150 million helping Hoosiers and our
guests enjoy our state’s natural beauty, linking 112 miles of new happy trails to
neighborhoods. Thanks to this effort, 94 percent of Hoosiers now live within five
miles of a trail.

And you’ll find more shade on those trails, because our commitment to planting 1
million new trees is ahead of schedule. We’ve planted more than 400,000 trees so
far and another 200,000 will be planted this spring.

And to fortify our information highways, we’ve made the largest investment in
broadband in our state’s history, as well.

Since the Next Level Connections program was announced in 2018, we’ve
allocated $350 million to provide everyone, wherever they live in Indiana, with
access to affordable, quality broadband and the limitless opportunity it affords.
This most recent round saw more than $600 million in requests from nearly every
county in the state. It’s no surprise that Forbes calls us a national model.

I hear about the difference this is making every day.

Like when Amy and Scott House from New Castle decided to run their business
out of their home and care for their family, they considered moving. But because
of a Next Level Connections grant, their home was covered along with 69 other
homes and 10 businesses with 1 gigabyte service.

Thanks to Scott and his mother Patti for connecting with us here tonight.

And now, we’re taking a giant leap toward creating One Indiana.

We’re a state with incredible urban, rural and suburban areas, and yet many of our
rural areas have struggled to maintain their population.

That’s why, last year, I proposed dedicating $500 million to help communities
throughout our state accelerate their economic growth, improve quality of life for
their residents, and become magnets for talent.

To all of you in this Chamber, I salute you for going big and bold.

This READI Program is the largest investment in Hoosier history aimed at
transforming every region of our state, representing all 92 counties.
Every region received a portion of the $500 million. But that’s just the tip of the
iceberg.

Local leaders identified nearly 800 projects and $1.5 billion in demand, with $15
billion in their own matching funds. That’s why we’ll need to come back in 2023 and go big again.

And to further help communities prosper, we’ll continue to partner on public safety
efforts and deliver the good government service Hoosiers have come to expect.

That includes supporting and appropriately funding our law enforcement officers
by investing $70 million in our state law enforcement academy and continuing to
implement best practices.

To Indiana’s law enforcement community, I say, we say, “Thank you” and “We’ve
got your back!”

Two more thank you’s before I close.

This September, Camp Atterbury was transformed from a military training site into
a temporary home for some of the men, women and children who fled Afghanistan.

We took in 7,500 evacuees, more than 40 percent of them children, provided
medical care, traditional Afghan meals, lessons in English, and what to expect in
their new country.

We saw an outpouring of donations and volunteers on a scale like no other state
experienced.

Now, most are starting their new lives somewhere in America, with about 500
calling Indiana their new home.

I commend everyone involved in this tremendous, uplifting effort. To me, it’s a
great example of what Hoosiers are all about and what we’re capable of
accomplishing when we work together.

Finally, I couldn’t give a State of the State Address without giving an update on
COVID-19 and the extraordinary personal toll it’s had on our families.

To date, more than 19,000 Hoosier lives have been lost — more than live in
Huntington, or Crawfordsville or Jasper.

Hospitals are diverting patients in search of available beds.

The number of ICU beds in use is almost at an all-time high, and it’s difficult to
find one around the state.

I want to thank over 3.5 million Hoosiers who are vaccinated and those getting
boosted. You are a big reason our hospital network hasn’t collapsed.

We know that people who are getting vaccinated and boosted overwhelmingly stay
out of the hospital, stay out of the ICU, and don’t die.

If you haven’t been vaccinated, I encourage — I plead — I even beg you to speak
to your doctor and do so. I say this, even if you’ve disagreed with every position
I’ve taken. I just want us both to be around to continue to have those
disagreements.

And a special thank you to all of those who are putting others above themselves to
continue the battle against COVID-19.

Our hospitals have been under siege. Our healthcare providers are exhausted,
physically and mentally, as are those taking care of our nursing home residents,
and students in our schools, and our own State Health Department quarterbacking
it all, and everyone supporting them.

You’ve all been operating in overdrive for two years.

No words, salary, or earthly awards will ever be enough to repay you for the lives
you’ve cared for and saved. The ultimate judge will be kind to you for living your
love for your neighbor.

History has shown again and again that it’s when we’re facing the toughest
challenges that we can be at our best.

Despite our challenges, this is a time of unprecedented Indiana growth,
connections, momentum, and opportunity for all Hoosiers. This is our time to build
an even stronger Indiana, not just for today, but for decades to come. And that my
friends is what we’re doing!

Thank you, and may God continue to bless us all and our great state.

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