INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb said the state of our state has never been stronger. However, his speech also featured plans for improvement including increasing teacher pay and adoption support.
Governor Holcomb’s plan for teacher pay is for next year, 2021. He recommends lawmakers use $250 million from the state’s surplus and put it toward teacher retirement funds. This would generate $50 million annually for teacher pay.
He says that is in addition to the $150 million they gave to the teacher retirement fund last year that freed up $65 million more for teachers.
“Together, that’s 115 million more available annually to increase teacher pay with more to come after the teacher compensation commission releases its recommendations,” said Holcomb.
Democratic leadership isn’t against the idea but said this needs to be done now, not next year.
“House Democrats put forth an amendment last week that would have increased teacher pay giving out some bonuses that would have at least gotten us to next year,” said House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta.
“Pay me now, let’s get the money on the table," added Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane. "We can do it. This is all just a delay for whatever reason, which I frankly don’t understand.”
Lanane said there is nothing in the law that says the state cannot appropriate this money during a non-budget year.
However, Democrats do support Governor Holcomb’s announcement to create the state’s first Adoption Unit within the Department of Child Services. It will bring more staff into each region of the state to focus solely on finding permanent homes for children when parental rights have been taken away. Holcomb wants to cut the time it takes to adopt to under a year.
“Not only will this new unit help our most precious population find a permanent home faster, it will also enable family case managers to focus on their primary mission of protecting children in need,” said Holcomb.
The Governor also cited some 2019 Indiana rankings. He said we are number one in the Midwest and top 5 nationally for business. Number one in infrastructure and top two for long-term fiscal stability.
While Democrats don't argue those rankings, they say more needs to be done to address the state's rising cost of healthcare and they would have liked the governor to make redistricting a priority in 2020.
The Indiana Hospital Association credited Holcomb for what he said to address health issues in the state saying,
"Governor Eric Holcomb set forth a strong vision tonight for a healthier Indiana, better transparency for healthcare consumers, and establishing key measures like protecting patients from surprise medical bills. His proposals will put Indiana on a path to lower costs for Hoosiers and better physical and mental health outcomes."
Republican Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray also sent a statement on Holcomb's speech,
“In tonight’s address, Gov. Holcomb laid out a compelling vision for improving the lives of Hoosiers all across our state both now and in the future. My caucus members and I are ready to continue working with the governor and our colleagues in the House of Representatives to improve workforce development and education, eliminate government debt, and improve health care cost transparency for Hoosiers. Together I believe we are making great strides that will continue to move our state forward.”
Indiana Democratic Party Chair John Zody said,
“Bottomline, pay raises for hardworking educators are more than a year away, if ever. That’s not taking action, it’s taking a back seat. If you’re a teacher working two jobs, a pay raise in 18 months -- at best -- isn’t exactly a light at the end of the tunnel. Hoosier families stuck choosing between pricey prescription drugs and putting food on the table won’t see any relief. For a state that’s 48th in quality of life, Hoosiers deserved to hear a lot more from their do-nothing governor on improving that condition.”
To view the Governor's full State of the State Address, click here.