Eric Holcomb might be best described as a sensible governor.

He manages to avoid missteps on social issues. He pushes for common-sense solutions to the issues that face the state.

Holcomb’s State of the State Address that was held Tuesday may have been overshadowed by the presidential transition. But it’s worth taking a longer look at his comments.

Some of the initiatives he discussed, such as completing the Interstate 69 project in the southern half of the state, are unlikely to have much impact locally. But there were many other ideas that will.

Here’s a look at some of Holcomb’s proposals that could be impactful to Jay County.



Broadband

Rural areas like ours remain underserved when it comes to high-speed internet. That can be a sizable detriment when it comes to trying to attract new businesses and new residents.

State Rep. J.D. Prescott has wisely made expanding broadband one of his campaign goals. It should be a priority.

That’s why it was heartening to hear Holcomb proposed an additional $100 million to help continue to expand broadband service in Indiana. (That’s on top of the progress already made through the state’s Next Level Broadband program.)

If rural areas are going to be competitive in a world that is getting ever smaller because of interconnectivity, broadband will be key. Holcomb’s focus on it is a good sign.



Housing

The need to expand and improve the housing stock has been a topic of conversation locally for years.

There hasn’t been a housing development in the City of Portland since the 1990s. (Plans are currently underway to break that drought with the addition of homes north of CrownPointe Communities.) Other development has been sparse.

A study commissioned by Jay County Development Corporation and completed in 2016 showed a need for new housing in the community. (JCDC last year did an update to that study that supports the previous findings.) Most of our housing stock dates from the 1950s.

One of Holcomb’s proposals could make it easier for Jay County to pursue housing development. He noted plans to develop and maintain “an interactive, online database to ensure that real-time, consistent information about Indiana’s housing and its market is available.”

The goal is to show where needs are and help them to be addressed. We hope that will lead to developers seeing the opportunity that exists in Jay County.



School $

During Jay School Board’s first meeting of 2021, superintendent Jeremy Gulley and board president Phil Ford were both critical of the state government for its funding of public education.

Gulley pointed out the various changes — school consolidation led to a reduction in staff and other expenses — that have allowed Jay School Corporation to stay in a solid financial position, even given the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. He also noted that Indiana’s Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission final report showed that the state dropped from 22nd in the nation in per-student spending in 2004 to 36th in 2018 and that it lags behind Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Illinois.

The state legislature has increased K-12 education funding in recent years — legislators will point out the $763 million that was added in the two-year budget approved during the 2019 legislative session — but the state still lags because of periods of flat or even reduced funding during previous administrations.

Holcomb is proposing $377 million new dollars for school budgets. He expressed a goal of being “one of the best in the Midwest for teacher pay, and we’ll be better able to attract and retain teacher talent, including attracting more minority candidates.”

A $377 million funding increase would be welcomed by Jay Schools, and it would be an especially good sign to be able to accomplish that increase despite the economic impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

It won’t solve the problem. But it would be a step in the right direction. — R.C.