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Holcomb delivers sixth State of the State address

Brandon Smith
Gov. Eric Holcomb delivers his sixth State of the State address from the Indiana House Chamber.

Gov. Eric Holcomb gave Hoosiers a “progress report” Tuesday in his annual State of the State address.

The speech was a recitation of Holcomb’s recently-announced agenda, yielding no new announcements or surprises.

Holcomb used much of the speech to trumpet recent successes: income growth and a low unemployment rate, teacher pay raises and billions of dollars in infrastructure improvements.

“Despite our challenges, this is a time of unprecedented growth, connections, momentum and opportunity for all Hoosiers,” Holcomb said.

Democrats pointed out that many of those accomplishments were made possible through funding from the Biden administration's American Rescue Plan.

The governor also pitched future plans: a proposed business tax cut this year and major spending in 2023, including significant investments in public health and economic development.

To close his address, Holcomb made another impassioned plea for Hoosiers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

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

Indiana is one of the worst states in the country for the percentage of its population vaccinated against the virus. It also reported its highest ever COVID-19 hospital census Tuesday, breaking the record set in November 2020.

Republican legislative leaders said they share the optimism Holcomb expressed in his 2022 address.

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Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) said he was particularly focused on the governor’s push to give the state more flexibility in the economic incentives it uses to attract companies to Indiana.

“Begin to get some of those emerging industries that are going to be here for decades to land here in the state of Indiana and have an impact for years,” Bray said.

Democrats said the governor was “alarmingly silent” on confronting the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) said he does appreciate Holcomb staying away from “divisive social issues.”

“The governor does not have, though – I didn’t see – much of a roadmap for 2022,” GiaQuinta said.

Democratic leaders are advocating for immediate investments in affordable child care and health, as well as pushing for an increased minimum wage and legalized cannabis.

Legislative Republicans, they argue, are instead focused on curbing COVID-19 vaccine mandates and restricting how challenging subjects are taught in the classroom.

Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) said he’d like to see the governor get involved.

“I think at some point he’s going to have to step up and actually be a voice of reason in these discussions,” Taylor said.

In his speech, Holcomb did not address any of the most hotly-contested debates at the Statehouse this session. That includes a proposed $1 billion-a-year tax cut, an effort to curb COVID-19 vaccine mandates and bills to regulate how challenging subjects are taught in schools.

House Speaker Todd Huston said that doesn’t mean Holcomb is ignoring those issues.

“I think he respects the legislative process and is allowing [it] to play out,” Huston said.

The address was a return to normal for the governor’s annual speech after a change in tradition last year.

COVID-19 and other disruptions last year meant Holcomb prerecorded his State of the State speech, off-site from the Statehouse. This year, as COVID-19 precautions have been abandoned at the legislature, the governor delivered his address in the Indiana House chamber, in front of lawmakers, government officials, special guests and media.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.