Governor-elect Eric Holcomb unveiled a legislative agenda that includes a 20-year road plan with potential tax increases, expanded pre-K and making the State Superintendent of Public Instruction an appointed position.
Holcomb’s agenda plays on the same major themes as both Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature: sustainable road funding, developing a skilled workforce, and addressing the state’s drug epidemic. And his proposals aren’t shy about spending money or raising taxes.
“If we want new roads, if we want new maintenance, we’re going to have to find new revenue,” Holcomb says.
Holcomb also wants Jennifer McCormick to be the last State Superintendent of Public Instruction elected by Hoosiers. He proposes creating a Secretary of Education appointed by the governor.
“This is not about the person, me or the Superintendent,” Holcomb says. “This is about the position and how they can be aligned to work truly together.”
Holcomb’s agenda also includes expanding the state’s preschool pilot program. His proposal calls to double that funding from $10 million to $20 million per year, but keep the program within the five current counties.
Many of the governor-elect’s major priorities line up with those of lawmakers from both parties, including that desire for a long-term, sustainable road funding plan.
The House Republican proposal includes increasing fuel taxes and creating new vehicle fees. Holcomb’s agenda puts those options on the table too. Speaker Brian Bosma says he and the Holcomb team pledged to work together on that issue.
“He heard the details of our plan – and his staff heard the details – before it was announced, as did the Senate. And no one recoiled,” Bosma says.
But while the House GOP plan also includes the possibility of tolling existing interstates – some leaders even say the plan won’t work without it – Holcomb bluntly disagrees.
“No. Not my preference,” Holcomb says.
From the other side of the aisle, House Minority Leader Scott Pelath says Holcomb’s agenda includes more spending and tax increases than he expected from a Republican. And Pelath says the governor-elect’s job is now to make the case for those fuel tax hikes.
“It’s not just about the taxes, it’s about what’s done with the taxes and do people perceive that their community and their area and where they’re raising their kids is going to benefit,” Pelath says.
Pelath adds he’s not convinced raising taxes to pay for roads is a necessity.