INDIANAPOLIS — The Hoosier State is betting nearly $50 million in federal job training funds that it's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to seek permission.
Gov. Eric Holcomb on Friday submitted a waiver application to the U.S. Department of Labor requesting approval to replace the federally mandated State Workforce Innovation Council with a smaller Governor's Workforce Cabinet that the Republican believes can more nimbly act on Indiana's workforce challenges.
The problem is, Holcomb on March 21 signed into law Senate Enrolled Act 50 that immediately terminated the innovation council and transferred its duties to administer several federally funded workforce programs to the cabinet — without federal consent.
The governor said he's confident that U.S. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta will allow Indiana to switch from the 46-member business- and industry-heavy innovation council, to the 21-member cabinet composed of state and business leaders working in education and job training.
"We've been in ongoing discussions and we're encouraged by those discussions," Holcomb said. "We'll be much more nimble. We won't just have a compliance-only mentality going forward. We're going to be all about taking action.
"This is what we need to align our state and federal workforce systems and more holistically meet the needs of those seeking training and employment opportunities."
There is no definitive timeline for the U.S. Labor Department to respond to Indiana's waiver application.
Holcomb spokeswoman Stephanie Wilson said the governor "has requested an expedited turnaround."
If the waiver is not approved, the General Assembly could re-establish the State Workforce Innovation Council at its May special session so Indiana can continue receiving federal job training funds.
Democrats said Holcomb should have gotten more than "deck chair shuffling" from the Republican-controlled Legislature if he was serious about genuinely improving the lives of some one million Hoosiers lacking the skills to compete in today's job market.
"The bases were loaded here and Holcomb couldn’t even step up to bat," said Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody. "More of the same won’t cut it. It hasn't worked for a decade, and it won’t work now."