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INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb delivered his annual State of the State address Tuesday, making his first return to a joint session of the Indiana General Assembly in two years as Indiana grapples with its largest COVID-19 surge.

“The state of our economy is Indiana strong,” Holcomb said, starting his speech discussing economic growth and Indiana’s government surplus, which is expected to reach $5 billion this year.

“Today, more than 73,000 more Hoosiers are working compared to just before the pandemic hit,” Holcomb said. “73,000 more.”

Holcomb also touted the state’s $1.9 billion investment in schools that was approved last session, saying it has already made an impact.

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

Holcomb called on lawmakers to help increase access to early childhood education and bring more teachers into Indiana’s workforce.

Holcomb also said he believes the state has work to do when it comes to public health.

“Indiana ranks 46th in obesity, 46th in smoking, 40th in childhood immunizations,” Holcomb said.

Holcomb points out his public health commission, which was created last year, will issue recommendations on improving Indiana’s public health system before the state budget is rewritten in 2023.

Holcomb closed by addressing the state’s COVID-19 surge – its biggest yet. Shortly before a standing ovation for health care workers, he made a plea for Hoosiers to get vaccinated.

“Even if you’ve disagreed with every position I’ve taken,” Holcomb said. “Because I want us both to be around to continue to have those disagreements.”

Holcomb said he also wants mental health to be a priority this year by making investments in recruitment and retention efforts.

The governor did not mention several bills legislative Republican leaders have been prioritizing, including proposals on vaccine mandates, school curriculum and permitless carry.

“The governor’s got some that are high priorities to him and his administration, and my colleagues and caucus members in the House have issues that are important to them,” House Speaker Todd Huston said at a news conference after the speech. “So we’ll work together and figure out the right place to land, but I mean this is just part of the legislative process.”

Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) said he believes Holcomb painted a “rosy picture” of the state’s economy, saying many Hoosiers are still struggling at this point in the pandemic.

“We have a lot of good things from an economic standpoint from a state financial picture,” Taylor said. “But if you ask the average Hoosier, they’re still trying to find a way to take care of their families during these very trying times.”

You can watch the full State of the State address here: