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Holcomb's 2021 Agenda: Focus On Advancing Existing Initiatives, Increase Education Budgets

Gov. Eric Holcomb unveiled his agenda for 2021 Thursday, one which focuses more on studying, assessing and extending previously announced initiatives than taking new actions. 

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Holcomb does propose increased funding to K-12 schools and restoring higher education budgets. That push comes after a new revenue forecast projects little to no new money in the next state budget. Holcomb said further federal relief dollars will be vital to helping make his state budget proposals possible.

“These are our priorities," Holcomb said. "And if we’re able, this is what we will deliver.”

READ MORE: How Do I Follow Indiana’s Legislative Session? Here’s Your Guide To Demystify The Process

Holcomb pushed back on the idea that the bulk of his agenda isn’t new initiatives.

“To say, ‘well, there’s not a lot of new,’ this is what we need to do to continue to stay on the road that we’re on, to grow,” Holcomb said.

Holcomb also hopes to secure workplace accommodations for pregnant workers, a push that failed last year, and further expand the state’s broadband program – though he’s not asking for more money for that effort.

Though not part of his published agenda, Holcomb said managing the state through the COVID-19 pandemic will remain his top priority next year.

Republican legislative leaders highlighted their shared goals in responding to Holcomb's 2021 agenda. House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) noted that includes COVID liability protections for Hoosier businesses and schools. And Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) applauded the governor's passion, saying he looks forward to working with him to support employers.

Democrats criticized what they viewed as lacking from the agenda. House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) said Holcomb's plan doesn't adequately address Hoosiers struggling because of the pandemic.

"It would be irresponsible to continue neglecting Hoosiers who have been unable to work due to illness or have lost jobs because they needed to stay home with their children," GiaQuinta said in statement.

Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) echoed his House counterpart, saying "you wouldn't even know" Indiana was still in the midst of the pandemic by looking at Holcomb's agenda.

"We should be pushing for better workers' compensation benefits for those who get sick on the job and finding ways for all Hoosiers to have access to paid leave to take care of their families," Taylor said in a statement. "We certainly shouldn't be giving businesses liability protections for not following basic safety measures to keep their workers healthy."

And Indiana Black Legislative Caucus Chair Rep. Robin Shackleford (D-Indianapolis) called out the governor for what she views as his "failure" to address issues of racial inequity.

"He spoke for 15 minutes on completing highways and improving our manufacturing capacity, but didn't take the time to address his new Chief Equity, Inclusion, and Opportunity Officer by name," Shackleford said in a statement.

Holcomb mentioned in his address the steps he announced months ago to address racial inequity.

This story has been updated.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.