ZIONSVILLE, Ind.– Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced his “Next Level” agenda for the upcoming year Thursday. He aims to focus on jobs, economic growth, health, infrastructure and government service.
Holcomb revealed his plan at Traders Point Creamery in Zionsville. His agenda includes modernizing economic development tools and ensuring skilled job growth. He also plans to adopt recommendations from June’s DCS audit and school safety reform.
He has also emphasized passing hate crimes legislation after recent attacks on faith organizations.
“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 agenda also looks to expand the state’s transportation and broadband services.
The governor’s office says these five pillars will be the focus for Holcomb’s legislative and administrative priorities in 2019. Descriptions of the pillars were provided by the administration.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
Indiana House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) issued this statement in response to the announcement:
“Today’s announcement is not earth-shattering or ground-breaking.
“I suspect most people are in favor of improving school funding, increasing teacher pay, helping veterans, reducing infant mortality, and helping create a better-trained workforce. These are easily supportable goals.
“What we do need is bold action from this governor that says we must increase teacher pay right now. We don’t need to study this issue before making a final decision. We need to increase teacher pay.
“What will be more interesting to see is the level of support the governor gets from his own party in the Legislature, because there have been problems in the past in getting more funding for our schools, to name just one thing mentioned today. That’s not even mentioning the problems in passing a bias crimes law, which probably would already be in place in our state if it wasn’t for the Republicans in the General Assembly.
“As they say, the devil is in the details. I’m not sure House Democrats will need much selling. Republicans in the House and Senate might.”