Eric Holcomb became Indiana’s 51st governor in an inauguration ceremony Jan. 9. The Republican is long on political experience as a former state party chairman but short on experience with governing as an elected official. Hoosiers will be well served if his skills with people and diplomacy overrule the instincts built over time to put his political party first.
He isn’t without policy experience, however. He served as a top aide to former Gov. Mitch Daniels and U.S. Sen. Dan Coats. He’s been an appointed lieutenant governor under Gov. Mike Pence. He’s shown signs of sticking to a more moderate social agenda that would be more consistent with Daniels than allowing social policies to divide Indiana, as Pence did.
The legislative agenda he rolled out last week hit on some of the state’s most meat-and-potatoes issues.
He didn’t shy away from potential tax increases or fees as funding options to make sure Indiana’s roads are in the best shape possible. House Republicans have proposed raising gasoline taxes by a dime a gallon, which Holcomb said he likes in principle.
He proposed a $1 billion, 10-year plan to expand state investment in businesses, especially what he called early-stage, high growth small- and middle-sized businesses.
He favors more local control over addressing the epidemic of heroin abuse. That’s a positive. Then he moved quickly, creating by executive order a new Executive Director for Drug Prevention, Treatment and Enforcement. Another positive.
He said he supports making the state school superintendent’s job appointed, rather than elected. We’re not ready to support that, but it’s worth consideration. Voters were able to rise up and elect Democrat Glenda Ritz when they thought the Republican majority and Superintendent Tony Bennett were going in the wrong direction.
Still, Ritz was not particularly effective and in frequent conflict with Gov. Pence and the GOP Legislature, which didn’t help students much, either. The elect or appoint idea deserves debate.
It’s good that Holcomb included state-funded pre-kindergarten in his priorities, but his modest proposal to increase the state’s investment from $10 million to $20 million and limit spending to the same five counties in Indiana’s pilot project is inadequate. Evidence shows that quality preschool experiences pay off huge dividends over time; yet Indiana refuses to make the kind of investment that dozens of other states have made to cash in for Hoosiers.
Holcomb has not gone far enough in speaking out against the proposal for a total abortion ban being pushed by Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Goshen. Holcomb is pro-life and anti-abortion in his personal life, but seems to know governing the state is more than his personal life. Though he has said the bill is not one of his legislative priorities, he should speak out against the idea of wasting time on a bill that would be be emotionally divisive and ultimately found unconstitutional.
All in all, though, Holcomb’s agenda would move Indiana in the right direction.
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This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association.