Gov. Eric Holcomb supports accommodations for working moms

INDIANAPOLIS — In his State of the State speech Tuesday, Indiana’s governor announced that Fiat Chrysler plans to spend nearly $400 million on its facilities in Kokomo, saying the money would go toward expanding and equipping a factory for production of a new engine.

The company’s proposed investment will support assembly of the GMET4 engine, the first time FCA has built an engine in Indiana. The new production will require a workforce of more than 1,000 by the end of 2021 with these positions filled through a combination of FCA’s current employees and new hires, according to a press release distributed after the State of the State speech.

Construction at the plant, located at 3660 U.S. 31 in Kokomo, is slated to begin later this year.

“Our Indiana operations have historically been known as the largest transmission installation in the world,” said Brad Clark, vice president – head of Engine and Transmission Manufacturing, FCA North America. “With this potential investment, FCA has the opportunity to diversify our presence in the region. We look forward to working with the state and city of Kokomo to finalize our investment plans.”

President Rick Ward said the strong local support for the new contract ratified in December 2019 came from the fact that the company plans to start producing a new engine inside Indiana Transmission Plant II1.

Ward said the engine is currently being made in Italy, but it’s anticipated the production line will come to Kokomo. The new line would bring a $400 million investment to the plant and potentially see a workforce increase of 1,040 employees over the next two years, according to a contract summary issued by the UAW.

“It’s what we’ve been trying to get for the last two-and-a-half years,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of new product that looks like it is coming to us, and it looks like it’s going to be a bright future.”

Teacher pay

Gov. Eric Holcomb on Tuesday also outlined to state legislators how to free up tens of millions of dollars to boost teacher pay but said he didn’t want them to act on it until next year.

He told lawmakers in his State of the State speech that he wanted to tap into the state’s $2.3 billion in cash reserves in the 2021 legislative session to make a $250 million early payment into a state teacher pension fund.

That proposal comes as Holcomb and Republican legislative leaders have resisted calls from teachers unions and Democrats for immediate action to improve the state’s lagging teacher pay — and despite several thousand teachers attending a boisterous Statehouse rally in November during which stagnant salaries were a top concern. The governor has repeatedly said he would wait for recommendations later this year for what he calls a “sustainable plan” from a teacher pay commission he appointed in February.

Holcomb pushed a similar early payment for another teacher pension fund last year which officials estimated saved school districts $65 million a year.

He told lawmakers Tuesday that the new payment will free up $50 million in annual state funding.

“Together, that’s $115 million more ... to increase teacher pay with more to come after the teacher compensation commission releases its recommendations,” Holcomb said in his speech.

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