INDIANAPOLIS—Gov. Eric Holcomb has two years left in an eight-year run as Indiana’s chief executive. He describes his situation as being in the last quarter of a basketball game.
In a one-on-one interview with The Statehouse File Friday, he said he isn’t perturbed by the disagreements he has with his fellow Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly and that his administration is “knocking the cover off the ball” when it comes to economic development.
“We were just of a different mind”
One of the more high-profile disagreements between the governor and Republican lawmakers was Holcomb’s lawsuit over the General Assembly's ability to call a special session.
Lawmakers passed a bill in 2021 giving them the power to call the Assembly into an “emergency” session, but the Indiana Supreme Court ruled this summer in favor of Holcomb, denying state legislators this extra ability.
“[T]his was a constitutional disagreement, and it was an honest disagreement. … We were just of a different mind,” Holcomb said, describing the meetings between him and Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, and House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, as “always cordial and professional.”
During the last session, Holcomb also vetoed a transgender athlete bill, which would only allow participation in school sports based on biological sex. The General Assembly overturned his veto this summer.
Talking about the veto and his decisions in general, Holcomb said, “I think people will at least agree that we do our homework when we arrive at a decision, and it’s an informed decision. It’s not out of emotion or … for rhetorical gain or even election.”
Holcomb said he doesn’t feel pressure to conform with his party on every issue and threw out another sports metaphor, saying it’s not like “if you had to go step up on a free-throw line with a bunch of screaming fans and the game was on the line.”
“I don’t feel pressure after I have all the information, and I let the information guide me to the decision,” Holcomb said. “I may disagree with a best buddy that I grew up with throughout life, but that doesn’t add pressure to the decision I have to make because I’m a public servant and I represent 6.8 million Hoosiers who expect me—as they did through COVID—to share what we know to justify the decisions that we were making.”
“The momentum is historic, unprecedented, massive”
Holcomb talked glowingly of the state’s growth economically, citing numbers related to wages and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC)—a public-private partnership headed by secretary of commerce Bradley Chambers.
Average wages for Hoosiers this year are $34.71 an hour, according to Holcomb, who described the number as “very high.”
Holcomb also pointed to the more than $22.2 billion in capital investment via the IEDC this year, saying it “almost tripled the all-time record” of $8.7 billion set last year.
“Where we need to continue to improve are those talent pipelines to fill those jobs that are coming—those high-wage, high-demand jobs,” Holcomb added.
The governor said literacy rankings and Hoosiers’ ability to reskill and upskill needs to improve, while also adding that getting healthier is important.
“Health is wealth, at the end of the day,” Holcomb said. “I don’t want to just wish everybody good health in the new year, I want it to actually be realized.”
Goals for finishing out his second term
Holcomb went through items he wants to accomplish before leaving office, including finishing I-69 and the West Lake Corridor extension and expanding the South Shore Line.
When completed, I-69 would be a continuous interstate from the northeast corner of Indiana to Evansville, while the West Lake Corridor and South Shore Line are transportation connections stretching between northern Indiana and Chicago.
Holcomb also wants to start a second round of Indiana READI.
READI stands for Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative and, according to its website, “encourag[es] neighboring communities across the state to work collaboratively to develop a bold vision for their future that, when implemented, will attract, develop and retain talent in Indiana.”
Warning: Franklin sports talk ahead
On a lighter note, Holcomb ended the interview with a discussion of men's basketball—specifically, his alma mater Hanover College versus The Statehouse File’s home and Hanover’s rival, Franklin College.
The Hanover Panthers currently have the best record in the conference, but the Franklin Grizzlies have won the last two conference championships. Holcomb said he likes Franklin but between Hanover giving him a diploma and the fact that his nephew is on Hanover’s team, he’s loyal to the Panthers. He predicted a seven-point victory for Hanover if the two schools face off in the championship game.