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Four Takeaways From Holcomb's First State Of The State Address

New Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb delivers his first State of the State address on Jan. 17, 2017. In his address, Holcomb outlined five goals for his administration including road funding and preschool.

New Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb gave his first State of the State address Tuesday evening, speaking to the Indiana House and Senate.

Here are three things you need to know about his speech and what it means for the state moving forward.

1. Holcomb is tepid in backing a gas tax hike to pay for road funding

The new Republican governor avoided using his first State of the State speech Tuesday night to directly support proposed gasoline tax increases.

But Holcomb says the extra tax money will be a worthwhile investment for the state's communities and economy.

“When it comes to paying for these projects, I’m open to a menu of options,” Holcomb says. “The fact is, existing sources of revenue are just not keeping up.”

Lawmakers hoped Holcomb would take a stronger stance on the issue in his address.

Holcomb previously said he supports increasing the state's 18-cents-a-gallon gas tax. Legislative Republicans have proposed increasing that tax by 10 cents-a-gallon and adding $15 to the annual vehicle registration fee.

2. Holcomb outlines his plan for pre-K expansion

When it comes to expanding Indiana’s pre-k pilot program, Holcomb is willing to be specific.

“Our most vulnerable children deserve a fair start too, so I’ve called for us to double the state’s investment in pre-kindergarten to 20 million dollars annually,” he says.

The $20 million would double what the state currently spends on preschool in the state.

Pre-K expansion of some kind is widely supported by legislators on both sides of the aisle, though they disagree on how much money should be funneled into the program.

3. Holcomb wants to make it easier for counties to get a needle exchange

Holcomb praised a county health department nurse's work in running a needle-exchange program while calling in his State of the State speech for more action to fight drug abuse.

Holcomb introduced Fayette County nurse Paula Maupin during Tuesday night's speech as one of the state's heroes saving lives each day. Fayette is among nine counties around the state with such programs aimed at curbing the spread of HIV and hepatitis C among intravenous drug users.

Holcomb told legislators the drug epidemic has devastating impacts on families and communities. He says the state will give counties more authority to start programs providing clean syringes.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence was reluctant to support starting the needle exchanges when he was governor.

4. Holcomb supports the balanced budget amendment

Holcomb expressed support for a constitutional amendment that would require the General Assembly to pass a balanced budget. A Senate committee approved language for the proposal earlier on Tuesday.

Former governor Mike Pence first pushed the balanced budget amendment in 2015. It easily passed the General Assembly that year. If it passes again, this session or next, it will go to voters for their approval in the 2018 general election.

The amendment allows the legislature to create an unbalanced budget with a two-thirds majority vote of the House and Senate.

Some lawmakers have questioned the need for the amendment.

The Associated Press and Indiana Public Broadcasting's Brandon Smith contributed to this report. 

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