Holcomb to deliver first State of the State speech

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb will deliver his first State of the State speech Tuesday night, where he is expected to call for a plan that will likely raise some taxes in order to pay for infrastructure improvements across the state.

The speech is set for 7 p.m. at the Indiana Statehouse. It will be webcast live at iga.in.gov and broadcast on most Indiana public television.

Indiana's roads, highways and bridges have been given poor marks by some consulting groups and the American Society of Civil Engineers. GOP leaders have said they can't make improvements without finding a new way to pay for them, and they've ruled out tapping the state's roughly $2 billion reserve fund or using existing revenues.

Enter Holcomb, a Republican who in his first weeks in office has said he supports increasing the state's 18-cents-a-gallon gas tax, which motorists pay in addition to a federal 18-cent gas tax.

His spokeswoman, Stephanie Wilson, said Holcomb would address infrastructure and other priorities in his Tuesday speech.

"The governor has made funding a 20-year plan for roads and bridges a top legislative priority, and he's expressed his commitment to keeping all options on the table to ensure we close this legislative session with a long-term solution for infrastructure," she told The Associated Press in an email. "As a key pillar of his legislative agenda, the governor will continue to advocate for funding to support a long-term infrastructure plan."

Wilson declined to specify what other areas legislative priorities Holcomb planned to highlight in his speech.

Holcomb cited various priorities during a press conference earlier this month. He called for a modest expansion of a state-funded preschool pilot program for poor children that currently serves five of the state's 92 counties. Under his plan, the state's $10 million-a-year share would be increased to $20 million.

He also called for a school grant program that would give tuition assistance to adults who are close to finishing a certificate or degree in high-demand fields, such as welding.

Holcomb said he also wants help fight the state's drug epidemic by passing legislation that will allow cities and counties to set up their own needle exchanges. Currently, local municipalities have to ask the state for permission, a process that public health advocates say is fraught with bureaucracy.

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