Indiana governor names new OMB director

Bonds

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s deputy chief of staff, Cris Johnston, is taking over as director of the state’s Office of Management and budget, effective June 30.

Johnston will replace Micah Vincent, who is leaving the position for the private sector to become vice president of strategy at The Heritage Group in Indianapolis.

Cris Johnston will become director of Indiana’s Office of Management and Budget on June 30.

“Cris is a veteran who will step seamlessly into the OMB role and assist with the financing of large infrastructure projects, such as the West Lake and South Shore rail expansions in Northwest Indiana,” said Holcomb in a press release.

In April Holcomb signed into law a $34 billion, two-year state budget. The budget includes up to $205 million in additional money for a $1 billion expansion of the Shouth Shore Line, a northern Indiana commuter rail system that runs to Chicago.

The extra funds will be used to help complete the West Lake and South Shore rail expansions even if federal grants cover a lower percentage of the projects than originally expected. Federal funding was originally expected to cover half of the cost of construction on the $665 million West Lake expansion between Hammond and Dyer, and the $312 million double-tracking between Gary and Michigan City.

The budget maintains $2 billion in cash reserves, which Republicans said will allow Indiana to maintain its triple-A bond ratings.

Johnston previously led OMB’s division of government efficiency during the administration of Gov. Mitch Daniels. He then became deputy chief of staff for Daniels, who later appointed Johnston to the Indiana Gaming Commission.

In 2018, Johnston left his position as a director for KSM Consulting to become Holcomb’s deputy chief of staff.

As OMB director, in addition to overseeing 11 state finance agencies, he’ll also be chairman of the Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board, which effectively acts as the school board for the Gary Community School Corp. following its 2017 takeover by a state-appointed emergency manager due to the school district’s profound financial issues.

Vincent has been OMB director since 2015, under then-Gov. Mike Pence.

Until his departure, Vincent will take over State Budget Director’s Jason Dudich’s responsibilities until a permanent replacement is hired. The state declined to say if there were any candidates being interviewed for the position.

Dudich announced in March that he was leaving the state to join the University of Indianapolis at the end of May.

“Micah has played key roles in some of our biggest initiatives and became a trusted advisor. I appreciate his creative ideas to solve issues and the thoughtful way he has approached maintaining the state’s solid fiscal footing,” Holcomb said.

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