STATE HOUSE–Gov. Eric Holcomb skipped the social issues that have been discussed so far this legislative agenda by Republicans in both the House and the Senate, in his State of the State speech Tuesday. Holcomb also did not comment on a possible income tax cut for Hoosiers.
What the governor did stress was vaccinations, near the end of the speech, which was mostly about putting Hoosiers to work, filling jobs and making sure Hoosiers have the tools to trade and make a living, and increase their salaries.
LISTEN: The State of the State speech
He noted the 30,000 more jobs that have come to the state in the past year, with average wages of $28 per hours, and the many industries that now call Indiana home, included high tech ones like drones and solar. But, he said growth depends on government taking some burden out of the way.
“We must eliminate the 30 percent business personal property tax floor on new equipment to instantly ensure Indiana is even more competitive with surrounding states,” he said, not mentioning the income tax cut being tossed around, which could potentially lower the state income tax from 3.2 percent to 3 percent.
“He’s been in discussions with the Speaker and different leaders about that and he hasn’t thrown it out,” said Rep. Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville), chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, and proponent of the tax cut.
Brown said he believes that cut can happen, given the revenue forecast from December, that points to a $5 billion surplus by the summer.
Rep. Terri Austin (D-Anderson), is a bit more cautious, saying she’d love to see some of that money go back to taxpayers, but that the state’s economic future is never certain.
“I’m not a proponent of burning through that $5 billion. I’m just not,” she said. “We need to find a way to use that money so that we don’t just spend it as a one-time spend and we get no real return on it.”
Where Holcomb and the Republican supermajority legislature differ, perhaps most at this point, is publicly addressing social bills, such as the “Education Matters” bill in the Senate, which would allow state lawmakers to say what teachers can and cannot say regarding race in the classroom (Critical Race Theory), and would also put teachers partly in charge of curriculum.
“Those bills still have a lot of process and debate and amendment to go through,” said Brown, in explaining why the governor may not have addressed any social bills in his speech or in his agenda.
Austin said he “sidestepped” those issues.
“Lord knows we’re mired in them at the Statehouse right now and quite frankly, they’ve worn out their welcome,” she said.
Holcomb received an ovation when he asked Hoosiers to get vaccinated, if they haven’t already.
“I encourage. I plead. I beg of you to speak to your doctor and do so,” he said, in the final minute of his speech. “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.”
Austin applauded Holcomb’s plea.
“I know that that’s a sensitive subject for some people. But, that’s the only way we’re gonna get through this pandemic,” she said.