As the 2016 session of the Indiana General Assembly came to a close last week, Hoosiers emerged as the clear winners.
In my State of the State Address at the beginning of the year, I outlined an aggressive agenda for this short session of the General Assembly that included providing $1 billion to maintain our state’s infrastructure, initiatives to combat the scourge of drug abuse and assist with local economic development as well as education and health care proposals. I commend members of the Indiana General Assembly for prioritizing these issues and look forward to signing many of them into law.
To be sure, while our roads and bridges rank above the national average, we could always be doing more and we must continue to make their preservation a priority in order to maintain our reputation as the Crossroads of America.
Through negotiations with leaders in the Indiana House and Senate, we were able to reach an agreement to commit more than $1 billion dollars to improve state and local roads without raising taxes. This road funding bill will help communities throughout our state by making nearly $900 million available for local road and bridge improvements over the next four years.
Furthermore, the General Assembly also fully funded three regional cities initiatives that will spur economic development projects and improve the quality of life in regions across our state.
In this session of the General Assembly, we also continued to put education and our teachers first. We took a step back from ISTEP, began a process to review standardized testing in Indiana and ensured our schools and teachers were not negatively impacted by the transition to a new, more difficult test.
As we seek to make teaching more attractive, I’m also pleased that lawmakers included funding for the Hoosier Educators Scholarship Program, which will encourage college students to consider a career in education. I’m enthusiastic about what this program will mean for those who aspire to educate our kids.
Members of the Indiana General Assembly also deserve thanks for supporting our efforts to combat drug abuse across Indiana. We passed harsher penalties for drug dealers and made it clear that Indiana will not tolerate those who profit from selling poison in our communities. In recognizing the fact that law enforcement is one facet of our statewide, comprehensive substance abuse strategy, I’m pleased that additional legislation is making its way to my desk to expand access to treatment and life-saving measures for those caught in the grip of addiction.
These efforts, along with legislation protecting the successful Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 for the 370,000 Hoosiers who have enrolled over the course of the last year, will save lives and improve the overall health of Hoosiers.
As I stated in January, my priorities during this session were focused on jobs and economic development, education, infrastructure and confronting drug abuse.
I’m grateful to President Pro Tem Senator David Long, Speaker Brian Bosma and members of the Indiana General Assembly for working with our administration to advance these important measures that will strengthen our economy, improve our schools and combat drug abuse in our state. As a result, Hoosiers were the big winners from this legislative session.
Mike Pence is governor of Indiana.