Indiana governor touts COVID-19 recovery in State of State

Gov. Eric Holcomb touted Indiana as rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic and called during the annual State of the State speech Tuesday night for the Legislature to support a new regional development program to spark that recovery.

Posted: Jan 19, 2021 3:23 PM
Updated: Jan 21, 2021 3:08 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Eric Holcomb touted Indiana as rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic and called during the annual State of the State speech Tuesday night for the Legislature to support a new regional development program to spark that recovery.

Holcomb pre-recorded the speech earlier Tuesday before it was broadcast on television and online, rather than before the typical joint session of the General Assembly. He chose the virtual option in light of coronavirus precautions and security concerns over possible protests across the country related to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.

Holcomb focused much of his speech on state initiatives responding the COVID-19 pandemic. He paused for about 10 seconds marking a moment of silence for the more than 9,000 Indiana residents who’ve died from the illness over the past 10 months, saying “It’s impossible to calculate the far-reaching ripple effect of the personal and community loss of lives and livelihoods.”

The Republican governor, who was elected to a second term by a wide margin in November, strove to cast the state as in the midst of a strong recovery, pointing to state government’s top-level AAA credit rating and some $2 billion in cash reserves as allowing more aggressive action than many other states.

“Coming off 2020, I’m convinced 2021 can be the best ever,” Holcomb said. “So the central question before us all is, how can we seize this day?”

In a new initiative, Holcomb called for creation of a Next Level Regional Recovery program aimed at improving quality of place and economic development efforts among groups of cities and counties around the state.

It resembles the Regional Cities Initiative that then-Gov. Mike Pence pushed for in 2015 and awarded $42 million grants toward three regional plans. Supporters lauded its success, but Holcomb and leaders of the Republican-dominate Legislature didn’t pursue more money for it in the two-year state budget adopted in 2019.

“We are just at the beginning of developing this initiative and will work with members of the General Assembly and our mayors, our county elected officials, economic development officials, and other stakeholders, so we’re ready to rock and roll when we have the green light,” Holcomb said.

Holcomb also called on lawmakers to approve $100 million toward improving internet service in rural areas of the state and highlighted the state’s commitments to completing the Interstate 69 extension project between Indianapolis and Evansville that’s been under construction since 2011 and upgrades to the South Shore commuter rail line in northern Indiana.

Holcomb last week proposed a modest increase in school funding for the new state budget — 2% during the first year and 1% in the second year — while leaving for later discussions with legislators on taking up a report from a commission he appointed two years ago to recommend steps toward boosting the state’s lagging teacher pay.

“When — not ‘if’ — when we do this, we will be one of the best in the Midwest for teacher pay, and we’ll be better able to attract and retain teacher talent, including attracting more minority candidates,” Holcomb said.

Democrats have faulted Holcomb and legislative Republicans for not taking more aggressive action.

“It’s simple: Governor Eric Holcomb didn’t follow through when he promised repeatedly to increase teachers’ pay in 2021,” state Democratic Party chairman John Zody said in a statement “Holcomb’s failure to include a wage increase for some of our essential workers diminishes his credibility and makes it hard for any Hoosier to trust him when he talks about our classrooms.”

Holcomb didn’t discuss the warnings about possible violent protests at state capitols across the country that prompted him to close the Indiana Statehouse until Thursday and for legislative leaders to call off all business this week.

Holcomb recorded the speech earlier in the day, after previously planning to give the speech live in the Indiana House chamber before a small crowd. But that plan was reconsidered following last week’s protest warnings from the FBI, said Earl Goode, Holcomb’s chief of staff.

“Out of that came the decision that the simplest thing to do then was to move to the studio, so it was a combination of both,” Goode said.

Governor Holcomb's 2021 State of the State address from State of Indiana on Vimeo.

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Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1187757

Reported Deaths: 22759
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook4748859369
DuPage768711196
Will65092894
Lake59589923
Kane50800717
Winnebago28351440
Madison28026455
St. Clair25497467
McHenry24336265
Champaign18115126
Peoria16906262
Sangamon16152218
McLean14621157
Tazewell13538240
Rock Island13069286
Kankakee12502189
Kendall1107786
LaSalle10810219
Macon9461185
Vermilion8568116
DeKalb8276112
Adams8006114
Williamson6800121
Whiteside5930147
Boone592671
Clinton557189
Coles520391
Grundy512563
Ogle502173
Knox5018132
Jackson461160
Effingham449469
Macoupin435279
Henry433057
Marion4262111
Livingston420677
Franklin414666
Stephenson409875
Monroe406683
Jefferson3980115
Randolph396378
Woodford367960
Morgan358876
Montgomery350068
Lee335343
Logan330953
Bureau330873
Christian330568
Fayette306452
Perry305857
Fulton285344
Iroquois277161
Jersey249646
Douglas245033
McDonough232840
Lawrence230024
Saline229847
Union218537
Shelby214034
Crawford200723
Bond191024
Cass189022
Pike169250
Clark168630
Wayne167448
Hancock167229
Warren166444
Richland163538
White160925
Jo Daviess160522
Ford158745
Washington158423
Carroll157634
Edgar154337
Moultrie149424
Clay142941
Greene137932
Johnson134712
Piatt132814
Wabash130012
Mason128641
De Witt128022
Mercer128033
Massac127233
Cumberland119218
Jasper111017
Menard10388
Marshall83915
Hamilton78815
Schuyler6775
Pulaski6696
Brown6636
Stark54122
Edwards52310
Henderson49814
Calhoun4782
Scott4491
Alexander4488
Gallatin4374
Putnam4163
Hardin34512
Pope2823
Out of IL00
Unassigned02223

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 662213

Reported Deaths: 12595
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion907061645
Lake48425878
Allen35861636
Hamilton32099397
St. Joseph29996512
Elkhart25386415
Vanderburgh21247378
Tippecanoe20024201
Johnson16349360
Porter15975270
Hendricks15825300
Clark11965181
Madison11746318
Vigo11612229
Monroe10333161
Delaware9838179
LaPorte9772196
Howard9056197
Kosciusko8562110
Bartholomew7456147
Warrick7416151
Hancock7409131
Floyd7207169
Wayne6633191
Grant6427157
Morgan6092125
Boone609088
Dubois5910111
Dearborn547467
Cass544499
Marshall5425104
Henry542393
Noble509378
Jackson464767
Shelby460690
Lawrence4184112
Gibson401281
Harrison399864
Clinton395853
Montgomery387083
DeKalb385278
Knox357485
Miami357463
Whitley349436
Huntington344476
Steuben338355
Wabash331476
Putnam330559
Ripley327161
Adams323549
Jasper316143
White297352
Jefferson294973
Daviess285396
Fayette271956
Decatur270888
Greene261280
Posey260931
Wells258275
Scott250350
Clay241444
LaGrange240870
Randolph225576
Spencer217330
Jennings215244
Washington211227
Sullivan203439
Fountain201542
Starke188151
Owen182153
Fulton178237
Jay177828
Carroll176518
Perry173235
Orange171250
Rush164822
Vermillion160542
Franklin159435
Tipton146441
Parke139316
Pike127632
Blackford120627
Pulaski106444
Newton96531
Brown95039
Benton92013
Crawford90713
Martin80114
Warren75814
Switzerland7548
Union67110
Ohio53711
Unassigned0433