INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb altered his sales pitch Friday on a plan to boost
a state-funded preschool program, urging legislators to focus on doubling
the number of students helped after they rebuffed a $10 million funding
remarks are among the first substantial comments he’s made in weeks on
several key issues for the Republican majority. He also reiterated his
opposition to increasing the state’s tax on cigarettes to pay for road
The comments from
the new governor come as the legislative session is entering its final weeks
and lawmakers are negotiating a two-year state budget, as well as an
infrastructure improvement plan and a preschool pilot expansion.
Holcomb has called
for funding increases for the state’s preschool program for poor children.
After the governor’s initial request for a $10 million increase in funding
was rebuffed by the Senate, he shifted his position on Friday and instead
called on lawmakers to find a way to double the number of students served by
“How we get there,
I’m willing to be open-minded about it,” he said, “but I think that doubling
the pilot program that we have, in terms of number of students that will
receive pre-K instruction, is of paramount importance.”
It is unclear how
many additional students the Senate and original House plans would serve but
their funding amounts vary drastically.
A proposal approved
by the full Senate Thursday increases spending on the pilot program by just
$3 million and sends an additional $1 million to a new at-home, online
On roads funding,
Holcomb said he’s open to the majority of higher fees and gas taxes
lawmakers have put forward to fund improvements.
included a $15 vehicle registration fee, a 10-cent gasoline tax increase,
and a diesel tax increase. The Senate’s plan adds a $5 fee charged on the
sale of each tire sold in the state and an increase in annual fees charged
on commercial vehicles.
A proposal by House
Republicans to shift all revenue from Indiana’s gasoline sales tax to roads
over time and fill the budget hole with a higher cigarette tax is not in the
Senate’s version and is not backed by Holcomb.
He suggested that
future revenue from an increase in the tax on cigarettes should be reserved
for any health care funding changes from the federal government, which could
affect, among other things, the state’s Medicaid expansion known as HIP 2.0.
in my mind, (have) more to do with public health and that discussion,” he
said. “I want to focus the discussion on infrastructure and how we’re going
to pay for our roads and bridges without combining the two.”
interstates, though, will likely be needed in the future, he said. Both
chambers’ plans provide authority for the governor to seek interstate
having that debate in seven or eight years - a move that would likely leave
any final decision up to his successor, should Holcomb secure another
four-year term. At that time, “we’re going to have to make some choices,” he
“We’re going to
have to ask ourselves, do we want to raise taxes? Or do we want to entertain