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(INDIANAPOLIS) – Teachers aren’t part of last week’s announced plan to dip into the state surplus, but Governor Holcomb says they will be, indirectly.

Senate Democrats’ fiscal leader Karen Tallian (D-Portage) and the state party have slammed Holcomb for spending 300-million dollars from a higher-than-expected surplus without spending a dime of it on teacher pay. Holcomb says he doesn’t want to attack that issue piecemeal. And he says paying cash instead of borrowing for five construction projects will save four-million dollars a year for the next quarter-century, money that could go toward an eventual plan for teacher pay or other priorities.

A Holcomb-appointed commission on teacher pay solutions plans its first public hearings next month in Indianapolis, Evansville and Elkhart.

Holcomb will ask legislators next year to approve money to get rid of the last traffic lights on U-S 31, and eliminate the need to borrow for a new swine barn at the state fairgrounds, a new main building for Ivy Tech’s Columbus campus, and new STEM and Health Professions buildings at Ball State.

Tallian argues those projects were already in the budget, and the windfall could have paid for something new. She notes the Senate had approved her request for money to address beach erosion on Lake Michigan, only to have it stripped from the final budget. Holcomb contends the chance to save money later by spending up front now is too good to pass up. He notes legislators approved his request using a similar rationale to pay down local teacher pension liabilities. That money has been billed as a potential source of extra cash for teachers, though local school boards will make that decision.

Gov. Eric Holcomb (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)