SH Gov. Holcomb

Gov. Eric Holcomb, who is seeking a second term, discusses Indiana strengths and weaknesses at an annual legislative preview conference.

INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb stressed the strengths of Indiana before a gathering of legislators, lobbyists and lawyers Wednesday, but said the state still faces issues that need to be addressed in the upcoming legislative session.

Holcomb’s session at the one-day legislative conference was advertised as a preview of his agenda for the 2020 session of the General Assembly that begins Jan. 6. But the governor is traveling to Terre Haute next week to do that and instead had a 40-minute discussion with moderator Toby McClamroch about some of the issues that might be raised next year.

Holcomb said that his agenda will focus on some of the same issues as in the past.

“I think it’s really three fronts and that’s how we strengthen our people and how we strengthen our infrastructure and how we connect with one another and how we strengthen and modernize our economy,” Holcomb said.

In focusing on “one Indiana,” the governor told the gathering that it’s important that all parts of the state have access to the infrastructure, like roads, bridges and broadband so all have an opportunity for growth.

Holcomb emphasized the importance of transformational projects like completing I-69, getting rid of traffic lights and railroad crossings on Route 31 to South Bend, expanding rail lines and ports and creating a quality of place so people want to live and work in Indiana.

But one of the biggest challenges remains workforce development and making sure there are the people available to fill the jobs of growing businesses, he said. It is a theme his administration has often repeated.

Holcomb listed some of the successes from the 2019 session including dropping the income tax on military pensions, expanding broadband internet access to underserved areas and the investments in education.

Holcomb and Republican leadership in the House and Senate have emphasized that education got more than $700 million in additional funding in the two-year budget passed in the spring and consumes more than half of the budget.

Two weeks ago, thousands of teachers and their supporters from across the state flooded the Statehouse demanding more pay and funding for schools. Lawmakers were in session for one day to organize for the 2020 legislative session.

But it seems unlikely that teacher demands will be met.

The governor said Wednesday he was waiting until the work of his teacher pay study commission is finished before making any specific proposal to increase compensation for teachers, who have fallen behind pay levels in neighboring states.

In separate discussion panels, Republican leaders have said the only new money to be spent in 2020, a non-budget year, will go toward one-time investments, ruling out using some of the state’s $2 billion reserves for teacher pay.

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