Holcomb is touting the state’s “position of strength,” a $30 million trail deal

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb praised Indiana’s economic “position of strength” in his annual state of the state address Tuesday night — arguing the state can afford to invest in “needs” such as economic development, public health, Invest in schools and public safety.

He also announced a $30 million grant for Indiana’s Longest Trail.

“As both our revenue and our population grow, we have an opportunity — rather, an obligation — to fuel that growth and use reserves for one-off projects even as we maintain a healthy surplus,” Holcomb said before a joint meeting of the Indiana General Assembly .

The Department of Natural Resources will spend the final $29.5 million of its $150 million Next Level Trails program on the acquisition and development of the 62-mile Monon South Trail, Holcomb announced. The trail along a former railroad corridor will span five counties in southern Indiana and will pass within 10 miles of approximately 440,000 Hoosiers.

101421 Monon South map

“The Monon South Trail will preserve a piece of our Hoosier history while enhancing the quality of places in our rural communities,” Holcomb said in a news release Tuesday. During his speech, he also called on lawmakers to approve an additional $50 million for trail funding and $25 million for a land conservation program.

Holcomb also took the opportunity to speak about the legislative priorities he released last week and made his case before lawmakers who control the state’s purse strings.

He commended the state’s pitiful public health record on smoking, obesity, access to mental health care and immunizations for children — 45th, 46th, 43rd and 41st respectively — and reiterated calls for greater investment in public health: 347 US dollars over the next two annual budgets.

Willing local governments would need to raise funds for the 80-20 state local mix.

“We don’t have a day, a dollar, or a life to waste,” Holcomb told lawmakers, “so in the next four months [of the legislative session] To get it right, nothing could be more important.”

The governor also urged lawmakers to prioritize education, calling for an increase of $1.1 billion for K-12 tuition support and another $120 million for textbooks and curriculum materials.

Indiana is one of only seven states where public school students’ families pay for textbooks — what Holcomb called a “disguised tax.”

And he also urged lawmakers to focus on public safety by increasing money for school safety grants, court technology upgrades, a “true” statewide firefighting training system, state police salaries and more.

“Here in Indiana, we have a well-run, well-financed state — and word has gotten around!” said Holcomb. “… Investors express their confidence in us. They create industries and careers here. You can see their growth and their future here. Let’s agree with them!”

This story will be updated with post-speech reactions.

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