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EDITORIAL: Holcomb must think big

January 14, 2017

Eric Holcomb is off to a solid start in his first legislative session, with a modest list of worthy priorities. They come nowhere close to fulfilling his promise to take Indiana to the “next level.” But we’re thankful his agenda also is free of the socially conservative, lightning-rod issues that cropped up all too often during the administration of his predecessor, soon-to-be Vice President Mike Pence.

The new governor’s legislative priorities include supporting new taxes and fees to fund Indiana roads, making the state’s schools chief an elected position, improving workforce training, modestly expanding state-funded pre-kindergarten, and investing $1 billion over 10 years to make Indiana an “innovation hub,” a refashioned version of an initiative Pence rolled out.

Also on his priority list is giving Indiana communities greater flexibility to adopt needle-exchange programs—a powerful weapon against spreading disease among intravenous drug users. Holcomb wants to overturn needle-exchange restrictions that Pence signed into law.

It’s clear out of the gate that Holcomb is not going to be flashy. The new governor is not one for bold rhetoric. As he likes to say, “We have to deliver good government services. It ain’t sexy, but it’s my job.”

Holcomb’s absolutely right, but we hope that, as he gains his sea legs, he demonstrates greater ambitions. After all, Indiana faces serious problems on numerous fronts—and needs an inspirational leader with the bold ideas to tackle them.

We can’t help but notice the contrast between Holcomb’s early agenda and that of Mitch Daniels, whose No. 1 goal was to raise per-capita incomes in the state faster than the rest of the nation. The priority might sound a little wonky, but it really was about improving the standard of living for all Hoosiers—a daunting task given the complex stew of factors that drive wealth creation. It’s not just about improving education or scooping up high-paying jobs with headline-grabbing economic development deals.

Those challenges that Daniels tried to confront are just as vexing today, both in urban centers like Indianapolis and in declining, population-shedding rural areas across the state.

Consider this stark statistic from the Annie E. Casey Foundation: More than one in five Hoosier children lives in poverty.

So there is much work to be done. Holcomb strikes us as a good man with the best of intentions. But that’s not enough to be a great governor. We implore him to rise to the challenge.•

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