INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Gov. Eric Holcomb is aiming to preserve Indiana’s $1.8 billion state budget
surplus over the next two years while not directing more money toward goals
of increasing teacher pay or expanding the state-funded preschool program.
governor announced Thursday his agenda priorities for the upcoming
legislative session during which lawmakers will debate a new two-year
spending plan. Holcomb is seeking state money for a variety of tax breaks
for attracting businesses, along with modest boosts in job training and
drug-abuse treatment programs.
spending makes up more than 60 percent of the state’s $16.4 billion budget
this year. Holcomb proposes examining over the next two years how best to
boost teacher pay, with the goal of making Indiana more competitive with
legislative leaders have said they were working on teacher pay increase
options for consideration during the General Assembly session that begins in
Holcomb said he
wanted to work with teacher unions and others on a “very thoughtful,
methodical” plan for the salary boost - delaying a push for a significant
funding increase until the state budget that’s adopted in 2021.
teachers, we’re losing talent to neighboring states because we’re competing
against them, often times, on salary,” he said.
Indiana ranked 31st
among the 50 states in teacher pay during 2016, with average salaries of
$50,715, according to the National Education Association. That’s lower than
the five nearby states that the Holcomb administration wants to compare
Indiana with - Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta of Fort Wayne said the governor needed to be
“What we do need is
bold action from this governor that says we must increase teacher pay right
now,” GiaQuinta said. “We don’t need to study this issue before making a
final decision. We need to increase teacher pay.”
recommending that the state’s preschool program for poor children remain
limited to 20 of Indiana’s 92 counties and at its $20 million annual budget.
His goal is to then expand the program statewide with the 2021 state budget.
“We’ll continue to
help other communities scale up, make sure that their child care centers are
actually high-quality learning centers so we can grow that program,” he
Holcomb said that
maintaining the state’s surplus and AAA credit rating was needed “to make
sure that we distinguish ourselves from the rest of the competition.”