Gov. Eric Holcomb spent a lot of 2018 focused on issues at the Department of Child Services. That includes the results of an independent investigation into the embattled agency. Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Brandon Smith talks with Holcomb about that work and what lies ahead in 2019.
Brandon Smith: I want to start with something that’s consumed a lot of attention, really, this whole year, which is the Department of Child Services. We got the report from the independent auditor about halfway through the year. Your administration just released the sort of progress report to us when we talked about your agenda a couple weeks ago. A lot of it seemed to be, we’re still studying, we’re still developing. Are you comfortable with where you are in the process?
Gov. Eric Holcomb: I’m never going to be comfortable as long as there is an at-risk population out there. Am I pleased that I think we’re turning the ship around and heading in the right direction on multiple fronts? Yes, I’m pleased that we’re heading in the right direction. I’m pleased that we have this action step. But as you saw, some of these are in progress; some of them won’t be in progress until the legislature gives us the tools necessary to advance. But I think there is more than a recognition that we had to do some things differently and we’re doing that. And so yes, it will require a true-up in the budget of about – you saw what we’re proposing and you’ll see a lot more in detail on Jan. 10 when we submit our budget. But truing it up to that $286 (million) level is another step in the right direction.
Smith: There seemed to be the sense, again, when DCS submitted its budget request to bring it up to where it’s already spending that everybody said ‘Yeah, okay, let’s do that.’ But then we got a fairly eye-opening revenue forecast. Do you feel like that’s a number that might change?
Holcomb: We’re confident that that’s what’s needed and I think it’s evidenced by past spending and where it’s actually going. So, again, I want to hear what their ideas are and if they’ve got a better idea than we have right now to draw that down, I’m all ears. But what I know is, that $286 (million) reflects what our priorities are right now and we’re prepared to not just defend them but to hopefully be persuasive about them.
Smith: And then very quickly to wrap up, you’re going into 2019 in a hate crimes debate now in which the people on the other side of this who say ‘No, we don’t want this law’ are some of the same people – or at least led by some of the same people – that you faced off with in a marriage plank debate earlier this year. Why are you confident you’ll win this fight when you didn’t win that one?
Holcomb: I need to do a better job; I’ll take some responsibility for this. In the past I haven’t weighed in heavily – monitored it, were part of discussions; when I thought it was going to be counterproductive, politely intervened. I’m all-in on this. We live in a different time than we did even in 2005 when I first started hanging around this place. When the governor at the time and when the Indiana Economic Development Corporation were pitching the state of Indiana – successfully, I might add – much of the discussion was workforce, for sure, tax and regulatory environment. It is a different world today. And if we want to continue to attract talent, quality of place and space and life, ultimately, factor. It’s one of those boxes. Matter of fact, it might be as important as your tax and regulatory environment to many. What I really worry about is all the conversations I never get to because they just fly over our state, because they know we’re on the one of five list, not the one of 45 list. And so it also makes business sense.