Indiana governor unveils 2021 Next Level Agenda

Last Updated on December 17, 2020 by Office of Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb & Reponses from Indiana Senate Democrats

SOURCE: News release from Office of Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb

INDIANAPOLIS – Governor Eric J. Holcomb today announced his 2021 Next Level Agenda, which is focused on safely navigating out of the pandemic and emerging as a stronger Indiana.

“The 2021 Next Level Agenda is focused on making sure Indiana remains a state of opportunity for all,” Gov. Holcomb said. “To do that, we must manage our way through the world’s worst pandemic in over a century.”

The 2021 Next Level Agenda includes five pillars detailing both legislative and administrative priorities for the year ahead.

Cultivate a strong and diverse economy

To continue our dedication to fiscal responsibility, Gov. Holcomb’s 2021 agenda calls for passing the state’s ninth straight balanced budget. As the number one manufacturing state in the nation per capita, the Governor will seek to enhance our status by expanding our Manufacturing Readiness Grants to enable companies to modernize their operations. The state will also stay on track to triple federal defense investment in Indiana by 2025.

Maintain and build the state’s infrastructure

The 2021 agenda is designed to enhance the infrastructure we have and finish projects already underway. The Governor will grow his nation-leading Next Level Connections Broadband Program with legislation to better reach additional areas of the state that are unserved or underserved with higher internet speeds. The state will continue projects including I-69 Section 6, the West Lake Corridor expansion and double tracking the South Shore Line Rail projects, and the effort to plant one million trees across the state. Additionally, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority will create a comprehensive overview of our state’s housing supply.

Education, training and workforce development

The Governor remains committed to ensuring that K-12 schools receive 100 percent of their funding for the second half of the school year. He will also work to increase K-12 funding in the next biennial budget and at a minimum restore higher education funding cut in the last fiscal year due to the impact of the pandemic.

Gov. Holcomb will continue to prioritize finding long-term sustainable solutions to improve teacher compensation. He will review and consider recommendations of the Next Level Teacher Compensation Report. Among the recommendations is a proposal to improve school corporation data accessibility and transparency by creating a website to allow for easy comparisons of school corporation financial, expenditure, and compensation metrics relative to other districts. The dashboard launched today and can be viewed here.

The 2021 agenda also includes reviewing and reducing unfunded mandates on schools, retaining more higher education graduates in Indiana, and increasing minority teacher recruitment and minority participation in Workforce Ready and Employer Grant programs.

Public health

The Governor remains committed to the goal of becoming the best state in the Midwest for infant mortality by 2024 by protecting pregnant workers by providing more workplace accommodations. Using lessons learned in the pandemic, the agenda calls for reforming long-term care services to be outcome and quality driven, and for initiating a comprehensive assessment of local health departments and state delivery of public health services.

Deliver great government service

The 2021 agenda includes regulatory and statutory changes prompted by the state’s COVID-19 response, including expanding telemedicine services, making virtual meeting options permanent and providing businesses and schools with coronavirus liability protections. Additionally, the agenda calls for removing barriers for Hoosiers to reinstate their driver’s license. Having a driver’s license is essential to finding and keeping a job, and the suspensions have a bigger impact on low-income populations, rural residents, and ex-offenders. The agenda also calls for continuing to improve services and increase opportunity for the state’s minority populations.

“Responding to a global pandemic has caused us to rethink how we’ve done business and just as importantly, how we do business post-pandemic,” Gov. Holcomb said. “COVID-19 has shifted our course, but Indiana remains focused on what will make us stronger, with practical and people-centered solutions based on a foundation of civility.”

To watch Gov. Holcomb’s agenda speech at Dentons Legislative Conference and learn more about Gov. Holcomb’s 2021 Next Level Agenda, visit

INDIANAPOLIS – On Thursday, Senate Democratic Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) gave his response to Governor Holcomb’s newly released 2021 agenda:

“Hoosiers are struggling across our state right now. It’s imperative that any policy agenda recognize this and provide real solutions that Hoosiers can access immediately. Unfortunately, you wouldn’t even know we were in the middle of a public health crisis when looking at the governor’s agenda. This pandemic brought to light many of the ways Indiana is lacking in its support for our residents.

“Where is the support for working Hoosiers? We should be pushing for better workers’ compensation benefits for those who get sick on the job and finding ways for all Hoosiers to have access to paid leave to take care of their families. We certainly shouldn’t be giving businesses liability protections for not following basic safety measures to keep their workers healthy.

“Where is the help for Hoosiers who have lost their jobs or seen their wages reduced due to the health pandemic? The governor made no mention of fixing the months-long delays in Unemployment Insurance payments for folks who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. The governor made no mention of helping the hardest hit in our communities not lose their homes. Where is any assistance with rent or mortgage payments? Where is any mention of state support of foodbanks that are stretched incredibly thin right now? There is nothing in this agenda that gives our neighbors the real help that they need now.

“Where is a concrete commitment to Hoosier teachers? Our educators can’t stand another year of half-truths or false promises. Democrats in the Statehouse have long proposed many of the recommendations the governor’s own teacher pay commission shared. There needs to be a firm effort to approve our creative and fiscally-responsible ways to guarantee teachers are paid a living wage. The governor’s promise to just read a report isn’t good enough.

“Where is the governor’s promise to pass police and justice reform measures? This past summer, the governor told Hoosiers he would listen to civil rights leaders and communities of color to create a plan that ensures our justice system treats everyone fairly, no matter their background. There is not one single mention of his commitment to racial justice after a year where we saw clear problems in the ways law enforcement treats our citizens.

“Where is the priority to give more Hoosiers access to their vote? COVID-19 showed how important policies such as no-excuse absentee voting or secure ballot drop boxes are to supporting our free and fair elections.

“The governor may feel these issues are not priorities, but I can assure you that Senate Democrats will listen to the real needs of all Hoosiers. We will demand more support for our state’s working class. We will demand increased access to your right to vote. We will demand real teacher pay increases. We will demand that all Hoosiers find equal representation under the law.”

INDIANAPOLIS – On Thursday, Governor Holcomb announced his Next Level agenda for the 2021 legislative session. Assistant Senate Democratic Leader State Senator Eddie Melton (D-Gary) released the following statement in response to the governor’s agenda:

“We are undoubtedly heading into one of our most important legislative sessions. All across the state, Hoosier families struggle to make ends meet during this difficult time. Yet, when you look at the governor’s priorities for 2021, there seems to be a glaring lack of solutions for the Hoosiers who are most in need.

“We are on the verge of an eviction crisis, yet there was no mention in the governor’s address about protecting Hoosiers who are at risk of losing their homes during this pandemic. There was no mention of providing Hoosiers with assistance to pay for their utilities as we head into winter. At the moment, our state still boasts $300M in coronavirus relief funds, and I urge the governor to make it a focus to have those funds directed to the residents in need of housing and utility assistance.”

“The governor’s failure to clearly commit to raising teacher pay this year was also a cause for concern. Simply reading the recommendations from the teacher compensation report will not suffice as a solution. Let’s be clear: we cannot afford to kick the can down the road a moment longer. We need to deliver for our Hoosier teachers, who have extended themselves even more than usual this year as we dealt with this virus. I strongly encourage the governor to urge his Republican caucus to make teacher pay raises a nonnegotiable priority this year.

“It was also incredibly disappointing to see no mention of racial justice or police reform in the governor’s agenda. This year, we saw people all across the globe stand in solidarity with urban communities in the fight for racial justice and equality. It’s essential that our state makes progress in this area; requiring body cameras, and only for state police, is not nearly enough.

“The fact that police reform is not a top priority for the governor, following the events of this summer and after several meetings with the IBLC, is deeply worrisome. I hope the governor renews his promise to create a plan to address these glaring issues in our criminal justice system. Our state government cannot put this on the backburner, and I hope the governor will show support for the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus’s agenda this year– which was created after speaking with thousands of Hoosiers across the state.

“As always, Senate Democrats stand ready to work with the governor and our colleagues across the aisle to ensure every voice is heard in the legislative process and that we address the big issues impacting everyday families.”

INDIANAPOLIS – On Thursday, State Senator Karen Tallian (D-Ogden Dunes) released the following response to the governor’s new 2021 agenda:

“Two issues immediately stood out to me in the governor’s next agenda. First, I am pleased that the governor continues to put emphasis on the protection of pregnant women in their workplaces.

“However, I would remind him that it was his own Republican party members in the Senate who killed the bill that would have provided those necessary workplace protections. Hopefully, his commitment to this issue is strong enough to rally his party around that legislation this session. Democrats are ready to protect pregnant workers if he can get his party in line.

“In addition, we can all agree that finding long-term solutions to providing teacher salary increases is a must right now. Just look at the resourcefulness and dedication our teachers have shown during this pandemic.

“Previous proposals by the Senate Democrats provide some of the solutions to these issues. For years, we have offered both immediate and long-term teacher pay legislation.

“I will once again be offering my own teacher pay bill that will provide for sustainable pay increases for many years to come. My teacher pay plan checks off lots of the boxes that the governor’s own compensation commission suggested.

“Once the state budget bill makes its way to the Senate, I will offer my comprehensive teacher pay package. We have the money, and we have the mechanisms to provide competitive wages for educators.”