Gov. Eric Holcomb | Indiana Lawmakers | January 20, 2024


Gov. Eric Holcomb | Indiana Lawmakers | January 20, 2024

Time flies when you're havingfun or even when you're serving as the chief executive of a state that's struggling, struggling to overcome generations of poor health habitsand the scourge of addictions. Struggling to deal with deeply entrenched suspicions about government and the value of shared responsibility and struggling to become a player in a 21st century global economy driven by technology.

Without abandoning its roots in agricultureand traditional manufacturing. and don't forget, Chiefexecutive of a state struggling to recover from the worst pandemic of our time. Now, since becoming Indiana's 51st governor seven very short years ago, Eric Holcomb has proved that those two things that is having fun and meeting high stakes challenges aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.

This week we sit down for our annual conversationwith the governor, Eric Holcomb. It's Indiana lawmakers from the statehouse to your house. And we arehere with Governor Eric Holcomb. Thank you for taking time out. This is a tradition that extends back even well before either one of us were in our current position. So thank you for keeping that tradition alive.

Happy to keep the streak alive. Well, now I in the introduction for the show, I talked about you being a happy warrior. And I'm not the only one who has that assessment. I'm reminded of Governing magazine a few years back said of you, This is a guy who doesn't scream, doesn'tthreaten, doesn't even complain. He just wins. Take me behind the curtains or inside your noggin.

I mean, does your cat cower when you come home? Do you have legislative voodoo dolls that you take out here? What? I mean, what what? How do you do? This isthis is this strategic or it's. I think it's just ingrained. It's it's personality. By now, maybe how I was raised and how I seek to respect othersand hope I earn their respect. So it's nothing will change on that.

front, no matter how hot it gets. In the kitchen, a leader needs to keep their cool and keep their eye on the prize or understand what their purpose is, why they are doing this, and then hire a lot of good people around youto carry out the plan of the day and hopefully carry it out smartly. Of course, I don't need to tell you.

that one reason that kind of approach stands out is that it doesn't seem to be in fashion these days. You know, a lot of people, both sides of the aisle, but notably the standard bearer for your party has been somebody who's championed fear and and condemnationand anger as motivating tools. Assess that. And maybe maybe it's proof that either to each their own.

or both could be successful. This is just who I am, my wife. And I said when we first set sail that we weren't going to change who we were and we weren't going to allowthe job to change who we were. And if that were to be the case, if we assessed that that had a chance of doing so than we were, we just wouldn't do it. We'd find something else.

that was consistent with who we were at the core. And so what I'm most proud of is we can look at a record and we can say this is what we have done and are we perfect now? Do we need to make improvements? Yes, that's that'sour whole mentality around here. The next level is not to boast about records, it's to keep trying to do better. And if we're ranked number one.

in some category, how do we defend that title? And that means you got to improve because every other 49 other states are looking at what we're doing, just like I'm looking at what they're doing and tryingto get to that pole position and then you've got to defend it. And so this is just consistentwith having a head and a heart for public service. Others have proven there's different approaches,.

but I would defend our record against anyone else's, whether it's a mayor or a governoror a legislature or a president. You know, different branches, different levels. We've got a record that we can all be proud of. And you're a student of history. Anybody who knows you can attest to that. You have a collection of presidential signatures. I think you have every geek is what.

you will to that. And I guess you're the only person I know who had his bachelor party at Abraham Lincoln's museum. And it wasn't boring for me. How bad is our situationright now in terms of the tenor of discussion, in terms of the disconnect between the electorate and the people who they ostensibly choose to go represent them, it just seems that we're.

I mean, gridlock is putting it nicely. Yeah, it's and we're not alone. When I look around the world, there's other cases of dysfunction of kicking the can down. There's so many good people that seek public service and then collectively that looks like the training wheels come off. Certainly on the federal front, that dysfunction is kind of front and center where it's almost.

as if our government is going to this cash advanced store just totry to get to the next paycheck. They're not passing budgets. They're they're not even getting full appropriation bills or getting any step stopgap measures that just get you a few weeks or a couple of months. And that's troubling.

That's affecting, I think, Americans outlook in terms of the debt that's amassed, in terms of the deficitspending, in terms of the even the lack of respect for a rule of law. That's why immigration cuts to the core, because I think Americans, rightly so, say why should the rule of law apply to some and not others? So we need to not just talk about these issues that seemingly keep them in business or getting reelected,.

but actually have a plan to solve them. And then I think you start to become that shining city on a hill again. So what is the answer? Or is this just we just have tosuck it up and live with this? This is the way politics and government is in this in this millennium. We don't have to accept it. But I think that we have to again,.

first and foremost, address what your purpose is. Find people who are passionate about that purpose, organize, have a plan,and then implement and execute. And I think we can do that here in the state of Indianaeffectively to become a model. That's what I talked a little bit about at the state of the State address. This, you know, a couple of Tuesdays ago was the Indiana modeland show that there's exhibit A.

Could be our federal government. It could be a lot of other national governments, could be some other states. And then there's be the stateof Indiana, the Indiana model. It works. And then hopefully people are able to judge and say, how come they can pay down debt? How come they can grow their GDP? How can they can maintain a triple-A credit rating?.

How can they, Indiana, continue to attract population and we can't. And that's good pressure, I believe. would our state what our nation be served say by a return to Donald Trump? I mean, again, he's the standard bearer of your party. You did you you actually endorsed Mike Pence, whom you had more than a passing relationship with.

All right. Largely, you're in this chair, right, when he dropped out. So where can this country, given what you just said, return to sort of. Yeah. BLACKBURN Absolutely. Yes. The country is strong because of our people and we will endure. The question in my mind iswho has the plans to forgive me?.

Take our nation to the next level? What are the specific plans to address our entitlement programs as an example? That's the elephant in the room. And until you get serious about that, addressing that, then to me your motives are out of focus. And who is that, If I may ask you again, you endorsed Mike Pence. He's out.

So is there who is to be determined and a term to be determined and there's time and it will come into focus in terms of talking about our economy, how we our economy is doing nationally, speaking in terms of immigration policy,all these things will factor in. And we'll see and we'll see. Even if Indiana matters at that point, it seems to look inevitablethat it's going to be a rematch.

And certainly the way that former President Trump has, you know, almost carved upthe competition like a holiday. Ham You know, do, you have an unusual perspective in that you've spent eight years in office, the first four with Donald Trump, a Republican, and happened to have a vice president from the state who hails from the state,.

and then Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. How has your life as the state of Indiana, as an administration, as a an entity that strives always to grow, changedunder those two administrations? I think we've been consistent. But this is something that I took a deep breath before I answer, because almost a sigh of relief in the sense that we have kept our eye on the Indiana ball and we have certainly shared our disagreements.

with both administrations, and we have certainly givencredit to both administrations when they have sought to help our state. And that's the kind of guy I'm going to continue to be, is someone who's not so short sighted to say, I can't talk to someone becauseI'm in this for all of Indiana, far beyond my presence or me occupying this chair behind that desk.

I have to think long term and I have to think about microelectronics hubs and hydrogen hubs and biotech hubs and what's our roadfunding, you know, fund formula? What are we going to how are we going to interface not just through a global pandemic, but for the next ten years? And that is.

Important to whoever follows me, just as is is for me. 40 years ago.I'm going to take you back here. You were a probably precocious, lanky high schooler there in the northwest side of Indianapolis at Pike High School. Yeah. Was this ever in the cards? Know, as you walk down the hall trying to open your locker, What know what was it?.

What was the goal there? Well, there wasn't that goal. The goal was probably to go on to college and figure it out from there. It's kind of a joke inmy family is I'll figure it out. It's kind of in five year increments. And after college, I joined the Navy. And best decision, I think I've ever made in my life. And that really got me organized.

and fly and straight and focused, committed. I knew that I liked service one way or another. And and, you know, you just reassess and reassess and reassess where you're at, where you can be most effective and where you can have. I hope if you're in public service, you've got the head and the heart for it. But where you can have the most positive impact.

and one thing led to another,and my wife and I discussed it and here I sit with you again and it was you did a lot in between, certainly for a congressional aide. You were a state party chair. Heck,you were a panelist on Indiana. We had a review. I mean, this is better than doesn't get any better than that. That was the point you are today.

That was the pinnacle. That was the pinnacle about, well, maybe, who knows, maybe get you back there at some point. But so now let me flip the question. What would you tell your 18 year old or your I guess that would have been more like a 15 year old self, Looking back, whateverI never lose sight of and again, maybe how I was raised. But never lose sight of who you are.

and not just to choose and chase your passion, but to understand what your purpose is. And I thinkif you have that, establish the why you're doing what you're doing, then the sky's the limit if you're willing to work for it. I mean, I was a few days agowith two young men, high school students from Merrillville and Hammond, Indiana. They go to the 21st century school.

They have their bachelor's degree today. They haven't graduated from high school yet. You're making me feel very inadequate. Thank you. I'm right there with you. And because I wasn't thinking about that as a goal to get my bachelor's degree before I walked across the high school stage. But. But that shows you there are so many pathways. Now, what are we doing here at the state to light.

Those pathways for more peoplethat choose to put the time in? And you've done a lot I mean, objectively,you've done a lot as governor. I mean, a lot of things that people didn't think necessarily could happen. But historic funding increases for K through 12 education, you even got rid of textbook rental fees. You know, that was who would have thoughtthat that dragon curb and slain.

hate crimeor bias crime legislation which we were one of the stragglers in that regard and go right down roads etc.. I thought you were going to say Sunday sales. I thought you were going out. What am I typecast here? No, no, no. Sunday sales. Now asking you to pick your greatest accomplishment. Is that like asking you to pick your favorite.

Indiana based basketball team? But. But let's give it a shot. What what are you proudest of? The team. And that's a that's a generic or a generalization,but I am most proud of the team and all of their areas of expertise, more so than any particular. So we'd like to see accomplished. Absolutely.

Because, you know, you could easily say and there were skeptics on multiple fronts. You mentioned the health reform or Health First Indiana program initiative. That was a big deal. But there were other agencies and departments working on big deals as well in terms of creating more career opportunities for people with higher wages. Our workforce development,.

the Department of Workforce Development, they're creating more pathways now for people to take three jobs and make it into one and get paid 70,000 a year. And so these are highly impactful. What our DNR has done over the last, you know, just in my time and before that, but in my time in terms of land acquisition, in terms of trails, etc., and trails.

And there were skeptics on that, too. And and now we find ourselves in serious dollars going into place, making ready now 2.0, another 250 million on top ofthe 500 from the Lillian Damond. There are course, you do have skeptics there, though, in terms of transparency. We have the whole water reuse issue in terms of the aquifer coming from.

Below the Wabash River down tothe Lee project in Boone County. But you're saying be patient, stick with us. I think anytime you do things that are big, you're going to have some growing pains. And I get that. And I and I get it. By the way,you're never going to have 100% of agreement on anything. There are there are folksin the same professions that say.

we shouldn'tsell any of our rural property. And there are some folks that saywe need to have more industry. So inside of the interest groups, there are there is disagreement. What we have to do is figure out how are we going to turn brain drain into brain gain? What specific jobs are we going to go after? And then it is it's a process of working.

with local stakeholders, which we continue to do, and we continue to be transparent when we have the information. And so it will require some patience. But I do understand, by the way, I've been there. I look at this through a local lens. I will be a citizen again. I was before I a lot longerthan I'll be in this position. And so I understand when youdon't have the information yet, it can be unnerving and and you can be skeptical.

But we're going to handle this the right way. And as you look back again, your will stipulate you're a basketball player. That's your passion, not a golfer. I don't even know what your your handicap is. But let's say if you use a golf term, Mulligan, what's your mulligan? If you could have a do over over the past seven years? I don't.

I'm not wired that way to say, let me try again. But I would, I would just constructive criticism of my own past. I would, I would. So you and you can alwayscommunicate more on the ground. It can be endless. But you can I can always do more. And you have to make time. You have to get me on the road.

You have to make sure that we're sharing all the information as fast as you can. We are, on the other hand, keeping really busy. We are crushing records. The GDP number speaks for itself. When you stop and think over seven years, you've added 150 billion with a B to our GDP that comes with committed capital investment andthen ultimately turns into GDP.

And that means you have more opportunity for people to get into good careers. And like I said, we're at an all time high wage level for jobs that were attracted to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. So the proof is always in the pudding. But you have to you have tonot just share your successes, you have to share throughout the whole process.

Well, and want to that point, one part of your legacy, like it or not, is going to be COVID. Yeah, you have, for better or for worse, where there when in the end the on the top job when it rolled in unprecedented situation, it strained your relationship with the General Assembly. You ended up in court fighting over powers Emergency powers Yeah.

Some of the people you've appointed probably you in sending a message to you or some perception of a shot across the bow have been rejected. I would argue that your public health initiative, which ultimately passed, maybe not tothe degree that you'd hoped was was delayedbecause of this notion that it's let's call it the long, longeffects of of long haul COVID. I mean,.

do you ever wonder what your your tenure would have been ifyou hadn't had COVID come along? there would have been challenges that would have come our way,not necessarily of the magnitude of a global pandemic that strained everyone's patience. You talk about not knowing the whole nation. The whole world was getting conflicting information on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. But I wouldI would look at this differently.

than you've articulated. And I would saymaybe we were not able to get a health care reform package through without COVID. It really helped us not only be more aware beyond the dismal rankings, but it created relationships and partnerships that were on the groundin zip codes on a daily basis. People became reliant on once and one another, and then in turn,those folks were able to share.

real data with their legislators. And I would say it exceeded our expectations. You might be referring to the dollar amount ultimately in the first two years, but I would say 86 out of 92 counties at the beginning of that conversation, I heard dead on arrival isn't going to fly right? It's over. Don't even go there. It got 86 counties.

And by the way, the funding, the 75 and the 150 million in the second year that is helping build this structure. And so you're going to have to build and I would predict the neighboring counties, the ones that weren't part of it, will say, okay, this was an opt in and that's part of this that you can either go in or out. And I'm guessing part of your mission.

in the remaining months will be to say, hey, these the six countiesthat are now outliers, there's maybe something. Yeah. And and we still want to be your partner. I promise we'd look forward now that we've looked back a little bit. Technically, you're a lame duck, but I've never seen a lame duck who's six? Five and where's cowboy boots? Yeah, maybe it's.

Yeah. Does it motivate you to. To. I mean, some people might say, okay, I'm taking my ball and go home. Others might say this just means I got to do everything I need to doin a compressed amount of time. Tell me your thinking on that. I have a to do list. I mean, I feel like a, you know, a foreman on a construction site.

We got a lot to buildpeople and places and make sure they have the resourcesto determine their own destiny. And the good news is we're building. And so my my to do list is very small font and multiple pages, and that's what motivates me to get it done and then to have a kind of a flight path in the years after me. Maybe it helps the next person execute and implement, but also it keeps that continuity and that certainty.

for the rest of the world to know they're going to have five years of building out their broadband Internet plan ahead. And so I got to make sure we land that $868 million and get it federally approved,that application, which it will. But, you know, tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. And I want to make sure it's on my watch. So Indiana is is continues to full steam ahead. And you still have a debate even this session.

I mean, we had one stop to start. You know, basically the notion that ifyou're going to start your life, there's one stop to go get it. I mean, how important is it? It's extremely important because I think that goes to right at the core back to the kind of the nation's psyche, people who feel like is the American dream really in reach? And when I come back and I talk about another $3.2.

Billion of capital investment,what does that mean to someone that I run into in line at some retail store or at the grocery store? What does it really mean it Does it connect with them? And so the state of Indiana has to be somewhat of a concierge to make sure that we don't just have, you know, all these resources.

on a piece of paper or some website, but they'reactually connecting with people because it does work. You can get your bachelor's degree while you're in high school or you can go back and get your high school diploma. It is on satisfactory that we have over 400,000 Hoosier adults without the equivalent of a high school diploma.

It's holding them back. If you cannot read at a third grade level in the third grade, it'sgoing to become harder to learn when you're in sixth, eighth, senior year in high school. And I want to set people up for success, not failure. It will cost us a lot more to try to improve later if we're not investing now. So that's what this most of this agenda for this year really hinges on, helping students.

succeed early in the process and even later in life. Getting back into the workforce. So I'll judge myself on labor participation rate. What are the wage levels? How are we can how many peopleare we pulling off the sideline? And that has to do with childcare and early learning centers and helping parents who can do math and say it's cheaper for me to stay home. I'd like to see them and maybe they'd like.

to get back in the workforce. But they do the math. So how do we address that expense? Fortunately for a state like Indiana, where our economy is growing, we can afford to make those things priorities. And I want to make sure that we don't. I want to put two feet on the pedal,not just my foot on the pedal. Well, and there's no shortage.

of individuals who want to succeed you. On the Republican side, we haveat least what it's a compliment. It is, I suppose, a compliment. But it's if Ronald Reagan is watching as a student politics, this gubernatorial primary, he's probably spinning in his gravebecause this is famously don't.

speak ill of the other Republicans. And this is already we've gotten a taste of just how contentious it will be. And part of that means attacking, by definition what exists. Are you worried about your legacy and the dismantling perhaps of of as six people vie to get the upper hand? No, I've got broad shoulders and I'm very comfortable.

in my own skin andmaybe as thick as a rhinoceros. But it's we're focused on doing good and history will judge the rest. And I can hold my chin up high. And I tell every agencyhead, every state employee that I thank them, that they have aninterest in continuing to serve. And we're doing good stuff and proud of them. When can we expectan endorsement in that race or.

might there not be one? There might not be one, but I'll be looking at just what we've been talking about,who's going to endorse the plans that best what we've been doing. I'm not too proud. It I'm hoping that someone does better than I did. I'm hoping that someone crushes my records or our records and so I want to hear about.

who'sgoing to continue the broadband Internet, who's going to continue to make college more affordable, who's going to continue to invest in placemakingso that the cultural amenities and the vibrancy of local communities, no matter how big or small they are, are magnetic. governor. We had solicited questions from viewers and listeners and Robby from Lawrence County had a question.

He he likes what you've donewith with Rails two trails and that's been a priority of yours. But now he lives thereand he says for instance, Crane Naval Base, one of the rail linesthat used to serve it now is is I guess a trail. And he he's concerned that is the prioritization of rails to trails somehow hurting the rail industry and the.

The spokes system that sort of built the Indiana's economy, you know, for more than a century. Yeah, cross rails of America and cross roads. You can the two that we would never jeopardizenational security and the trail that we have, it's actually our longest trail in the state of Indiana, from New Albany to Mitchell, Indiana, at 62.3 miles long is an abandoned rail line.

And so these are contractual negotiations between us and a company. We would never, for one second contemplate interfering with our national security. CRANE Naval Warfare Center is not just a gem in our crown. It's our it's it'sactually happens to be the third largest naval installationin America, and it's controlled by a former Navy. Yeah, And it's landlocked.

And so, no, nothing isjeopardizing national security when it comes to the trails around crane or mosque. Ataturk or Camp Atterbury or Grissom or Fort Wayne or Terre Haute or any of our wings. But trails are very important. One of the common denominators, and maybe why Robbie likes them, and certainly the reason I do one of the common denominators for a growing community is outdoor activityaccess and trails are a big one.

That stitch connect dots and stitch it all together. Quality of life. Absolutely. This is paramount. People are choosing whereto live before, where to work, and trails are a big pathway to a community. We thank you. And Robby, thank you for answering addressing his question. I hope to see him out on the trail Last question What's next? I mean, feel free to make news and help your old Indiana. We can review I mean pal compatriot here.

I've I've thought about running for president of the American Schnauzer Association. I was waiting for the shoe to drop there but but I'm going to keep my eye on the ball through through what I was elected to serve that time. And so that that gets me to January 13th, to be exact. And my calendar runsthrough and up to January 13th. And then I'm going to better serve my wife for for a few weeks or months.

and then we'll figure it out. All right. Well, we'll leave it there, but I thank you, Eric Holcomb, Indiana's 51st governor. Appreciate your time and best of wishes in the remaining months of your of your tenure as governor. We're going to run the score up. Thank you. A generation ago, Hoosiers viewed economic development as an overwhelmingly positive and beneficial endeavor.

Now, more and more of the supposed beneficiaries are balking at what they see as questionable goals, regional favoritism and a lack of transparency and public input on the next Indiana lawmakers. Well, that concludes another edition of Indiana lawmakers. I'm John Swanson. On behalf of commentator Ed Feigenbaum, WFYI Public Media and Indiana's other public broadcasting stations.

I thank you for joining us and I invite you to visit WFYI dot org for more Statehouse news. Until next week. Take care

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