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Education, roads, drugs among priorities in Holcomb’s budget

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Micah Vincent, the director of the Indiana Office of Managment and Budget, reveals Gov. Eric Holcomb’s proposed budget to the State Budget Committee.  - ALEXA FREEMAN, THESTATEHOUSEFILE.COM
  • Alexa Freeman, TheStatehouseFile.com
  • Micah Vincent, the director of the Indiana Office of Managment and Budget, reveals Gov. Eric Holcomb’s proposed budget to the State Budget Committee.

Gov. Eric Holcomb has proposed a slight increase in education spending in his proposed $32 billion two-year budget plan that was introduced to the state budget committee Tuesday.

Micah Vincent, director of the state’s Office of Management and Budget, laid out the 2018 and 2019 fiscal year plan to the committee, calling it the “key to taking Indiana to the next level.”

The governor’s proposed budget projects steady growth through the end of the 2019 fiscal year – 3 percent in the first year and 4 percent in the second year.

Holcomb’s budget plan would increase K-12 funding by $70 million in 2018 and by $210 million in 2019. Additionally, higher education funding would see an increase of $13 million in 2018 and $39 million in 2019.

K-12 and higher education would consume more than 60 percent of the state’s overall proposed budget.

The plan also calls for a larger investment in statewide pre-K programs for children “most in need,” doubling the investment from $10 million to $20 million per year.

The budget plan spells out the governor’s priorities for the next two years of his administration.

Vincent said Holcomb wants to cultivate a strong and diverse economy by growing Indiana as a magnet for jobs, create a 20-year plan to fund roads and bridges, develop a 21st century skilled and ready workforce, attack the drug epidemic and deliver great government service.

Specifically, the governor’s budget would maintain existing roads and bridges, finish ongoing projects, invest in new projects and fund future needs. Funding options previously discussed include raising the gas tax, fees for alternative-fuel vehicles or tolling some existing interstate highways.

Other transportation and infrastructure priorities include adding more direct flights from Indiana airports and creating a dual track on the South Shore Line for greater access to and from Chicago.

The governor also wants the state to be more aggressive in attacking the state’s drug epidemic. On Monday, Holcomb signed an executive order creating the role of executive director of drug treatment. He named Jim McClelland, former president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana, to the position and is seeking $5 million per year to fund the office.

In addition, the budget calls for $1 billion to be spent over 10 years for programs to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship.

The investments would be used for an innovation and entrepreneurship grant program as well as funding new research capabilities at the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute.

Rep. Terry Goodin, D-Crothersville, and a member of the budget committee, called the proposed budget “a good start.”

“I appreciate you bringing a budget we can work with,” Goodin said. “In the past several budget cycles, we started from ground zero and cut, this actually starts from ground zero and with no cuts and looking to move forward.”

An estimated $2 billion would be maintained in the state’s reserve fund.

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