Jan 10, 2024 - News

Lilly Endowment gifts $250 million to state

Photo illustration of Indiana governor, Eric Holcomb, with radiating lines.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Michael Hickeyd/Getty Images

Gov. Eric Holcomb isn't coasting through his last year in office — and an early retirement gift will help him make a splash.

Driving the news: In his final State of the State address Tuesday night, Holcomb announced that the Lilly Endowment is giving $250 million to the Indiana Economic Development Corp. to support the second round of READI grants — a signature policy of Holcomb's tenure as governor that supports locally driven community development projects and programs.

  • The money will be added to the $500 million the Indiana General Assembly allocated to READI 2.0 last year and earmarked for projects focused on blight reduction and redevelopment and arts and culture initiatives.

Why it matters: It's the largest single grant award in Lilly's 86-year history and will allow Holcomb to make waves with a popular program, even if the Statehouse doesn't advance other parts of his agenda.

  • The first round of READI grants, established in 2021 with $500 million from the state, combined with additional public, private and nonprofit sources and resulted in more than $12 billion of investment, according to Holcomb.

Between the lines: The lame-duck Republican, who is term-limited, hasn't always seen eye-to-eye with state lawmakers — even with his party in the supermajority.

What they're saying: Quoting former Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, Holcomb promised not to play it safe over the next 12 months.

  • "A ship in a port is safe, but that is not what ships are built for," he said. "In that same spirit, I do not plan to safely stay anchored in port for the next 12 months."

The big picture: There is common ground between the priorities of Statehouse leaders and Holcomb — third grade reading, for example — but House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) has already found a bit of daylight between himself and the governor.

  • Huston said Monday that he didn't have a strong opinion on Holcomb's proposal to make computer science a high school graduation requirement, but he'd like to see that course and others count toward mandatory science credits.
  • Huston and Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) praised Holcomb's address Tuesday night and said they saw "terrific alignment" between their caucuses' priorities and the governor's.

The other side: Democrats raised questions about transparency at the IEDC, which administers the READI program.

  • "I want to make sure that any dollars that are sent to communities have accountability measures (built) in," Senate Democratic Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) said.
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