With the Indiana legislature set to begin its 2021 session in three weeks, Governor Eric Holcomb on Thursday unveiled his Next Level Agenda.
He says “priority one” heading into the new year will be the same issue to close out this year: a continuing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our response and recovery efforts are all geared toward protecting the lives and livelihoods by testing and tracing and treating those who are in need of care,” said Holcomb.
When the general assembly convenes in January, it will begin the two-year budget cycle process. Holcomb says he is committed to having a balanced budget even as the pandemic creates uncertainty on the state’s financial well-being.
“And we’ll make sure we carry a prudent reserve balance, to help us get back to where we were pre-pandemic, something many states won’t be able to do for years to come,” said Holcomb.
During the annual Denton’s Legislative Conference, Holcomb spelled out the five pillars of his legislative agenda, including economy, infrastructure, education & workforce development, public health, and providing good government.
“Responding to a global pandemic has caused us to rethink how we’ve done business and just as importantly, how we do business post-pandemic,” said Holcomb. “COVID-19 has shifted our course, but Indiana remains focused on what will make us stronger, with practical and people-centered solutions based on a foundation of civility.”
Following the Dentons LegCon, the governor was asked why his agenda does not include new initiatives but a continuation of existing programs.
“Every single thing on this agenda is very important to the growth of our state. Every single thing on this agenda is big. And whether that has to do with being new, new and shiny, or finishing what we started,” said Holcomb, as he highlighted the state’s continuing work to complete the I-69 project to Indianapolis and building a new bridge over the Ohio River.
The governor said while the agenda does not contain new projects, it does contain continuity.
“When you talk to these folks who are investing and growing opportunities, what they’re looking for, is that certainty and that continuity, and that is directly reflected in this agenda,” said Holcomb. “And to say, ‘there’s not a lot of news,’ this is what we need to do to continue to stay on the road that we’re on to grow.”
Holcomb says his administration is not looking to raise taxes as the state has weathered the healthcare storm better than other states.
“We’ll have to play the hand that we’re dealt concerning how our revenues look as they come in. We are not going to spend what we don’t have,” said Holcomb. “And we want to maintain our fiscal superiority because we’re in a competition every day into where people are investing to grow, and that growth means opportunity for others.”
However, the governor warned if the federal government does not come through on funding, then some of the projects will not happen. “It’s that blunt.”
Learn more about the Governor’s legislative agenda by clicking here.
Gov. Holcomb said the state is well positioned to “grow our way” out of the economic challenges of the pandemic.