Holcomb defends LEAP pipeline, prepares for last legislative session

By: - December 7, 2023 7:00 am
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Gov. Eric Holcomb talks about the proposed IEDC pipeline and whether he’ll endorse anybody for governor in 2024. (Whitney Downard/Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Gov. Eric Holcomb defended the timeline process for a water pipeline from Tippecanoe County to Boone County for a massive, high-tech development grounded by a multi-billion dollar investment from Eli Lilly. 

Other companies coming to the area haven’t yet been announced but the Indiana Economic Development Corporation hopes to pipe millions of gallons of water daily from the Wabash Alluvial Aquifer — though local officials aren’t sold on the idea. 

IEDC releases full report of early Wabash aquifer testing results

“When you deal with something on an unprecedented scale, as (the IEDC is) … I’m pleased that they were operating at the speed of business, not to the speed of what we’re used to,” Holcomb said. “And knowing that there may be some bumps along the way but always know that the data would drive our ultimate decision.”

To verify the water supply statewide, both the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and an IEDC contractor are working on a study — though the contractor for the latter, narrower study has been moved to the Indiana Finance Authority.

Holcomb said that speed could help or hurt because being slow could mean losing the bid but thought that Indiana was “at a place, right now, (where) the interest is still there.”

“No one was ever going to promise a company water if we don’t have it; no was ever going to take water away from a community if we don’t have it,” Holcomb said. 

Rather, he believed the studies would show “an abundance of water sources” similar to neighboring states, states he said were in the best position to attract businesses in coming years.

What’s ahead for 2024

Holcomb said he wasn’t yet ready to unveil his final legislative agenda as governor, which is set to be revealed on Jan. 8. Lawmakers seem keen to keep session short in 2024, meaning any priorities will need to be ready when legislators convene on that same date.

He shared three generalized priorities, including: government efficacy and transparency, wrapping up outstanding or in-progress projects and increasing awareness of current government programs.

“We want to finish strong; we don’t want to limp to the line,” Holcomb said. “That will require us not only finishing some projects but also getting some programs (with) the structure in place.”

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For an example of the latter, Holcomb pointed to his initiative to send more dollars to beleaguered public health programs — an opt-in program that ultimately 86 out of 92 counties agreed to earlier this year.

“We want to make sure that the governance, the structure, the sharing of data, and expertise is actually in place,” Holcomb said.

Other examples that Holcomb said would “far outlive me,” include ongoing efforts to expand access to high-speed internet and Indiana’s network of trails.

Something else Holcomb wouldn’t reveal until 2024: whether or not he’d endorse any of the six contenders in the Republican primary for governor. 

Holcomb has worked closely with several of the candidates. Those running include U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, his Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, his former Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers, Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden, his former Attorney General Curtis Hill and mother Jamie Reitenour. 

But Holcomb said he wanted to see more policy proposals from the candidates and then make the decision whether or not to endorse.

“I don’t know if, quite honestly, endorsements still have the impact that maybe they did 50 years ago,” Holcomb said. “I think Hoosiers are very discerning and that’s been proven election after election … so I’ll judge if, A, I think it will be helpful and, B, if I want to.”

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Whitney Downard
Whitney Downard

A native of upstate New York, Whitney previously covered statehouse politics for CNHI’s nine Indiana papers, focusing on long-term healthcare facilities and local government. Prior to her foray into Indiana politics, she worked as a general assignment reporter for The Meridian Star in Meridian, Mississippi. Whitney is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University (#GoBonnies!), a community theater enthusiast and cat mom.

Indiana Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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