26 Apr 2017

Holcomb will sign funding for South Shore double-tracking project

South Shore News

INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb is eager to sign legislation funding the double-tracking of the South Shore Line between Gary and Michigan City. The Republican said Tuesday that he considers the $180 million Indiana will spend over the next 30 years to expand commuter rail service in the Region to be a vital investment in the state's future, as well as a top accomplishment of the 2017 General Assembly that adjourned Saturday. "This is not just about economic development, but equally importantly it's also about attracting talent from the nation's third biggest economy in Chicago and getting folks to move to this side of the border," Holcomb said.

The governor plans to sign his approval for House Enrolled Act 1001, the two-year state budget that includes the South Shore funding, on Thursday. Holcomb said he's still reviewing a related measure, House Enrolled Act 1144, that puts the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority in charge of attracting transit-oriented residential and commercial projects near existing and future South Shore stations. When asked by reporters, Holcomb did not in any way indicate that he's considering vetoing the measure, which passed with near-unanimous support in the General Assembly, only that he hasn't yet had time to fully digest it. "I'm still looking at every angle," he said. "This is just a methodical process with me where I carve out time each and every day to go over each and every bill, and I'm not there yet."

The governor said he has decided that he will sign into law Senate Enrolled Act 567, putting a state-appointed emergency manager in charge of the finances and academic program at the cash-strapped Gary Community School Corp. "Operating on good faith, we will step in as a state and usher this to a good conclusion and get this school back on track," Holcomb said. Holcomb also plans to sign House Enrolled Act 1002, sponsored by state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, that hikes the gas tax by 10 cents per gallon, creates new vehicle registration fees and opens the door to widespread highway tolling to pay for road improvements throughout the state. "Indiana now truly has a 20-year, sustainable, fully-funded maintenance program in hand," Holcomb said. "This is really going to make us pop off the map."

Overall, the first-year governor said he's very pleased the Republican-controlled General Assembly saw fit to implement nearly every component of his "Next Level Agenda," including measures to strengthen Indiana's economy, fund infrastructure, improve the workforce, attack the drug epidemic and deliver great government service at a great value. "Now it's time for us to take these tools, and our new resources, and put them to work," Holcomb said. "It's time to pivot and execute the plans that we have in hand."

Article by Dan Carden - NWI Times. Click here to see the article on NWI Times.