FEDERAL UPDATE FOR JANUARY 28 - Highlights of President Obama's State of the Union Message
Highlights of President Obama's State of the Union Message (link to text of speech at:
The President, in a speech to a joint session Congress last evening, focused on jobs and the economy. Obama said, "It's time the American people get a government that matches their decency; that embodies their strength. And tonight, I'd like to talk about how together we can deliver on that promise."
The President called for:
- Urged the Senate to follow the House and pass a new jobs bill as the first order of business this year
- Proposed using $30 billion of the money repaid by Wall Street banks to help community banks give small businesses credit;
- Proposed a new tax credit for small businesses that hire workers or raise the wages of current employees;
- Proposed eliminating all capital gains taxes on small business investment and providing tax incentives for all businesses to invest in new plants and equipment;
- Urged the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill to revitalize community colleges, end taxpayer subsidies for banks that provide student loans;
- Proposed a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and to increase Pell Grants;
- Proposed that students when they graduate be required to pay only 10 percent of their income on student loans, and debt be forgiven after 20 years (and forgiven after 10 years if they choose a career in public service);
- Proposed a three-year freeze on some domestic spending beginning in 2011, with spending on national security, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security exempt, and that the paygo rule be restored;
- Announced the issuance of an executive order creating a bipartisan task force to recommend ways to reduce the deficit (a similar proposal was recently blocked by the Senate);
- Urged the Congress to come together and overhaul the health care system;
- Urged the Senate to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation to help the country shift toward cleaner energy sources, and called for putting Americans to work building clean energy facilities, giving rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy efficient, and providing tax breaks for companies that create jobs in the United States;
- Set a new goal of doubling exports over the next five years, along with a new National Export Initiative to help farmers and small business increase exports and reform export control and trade agreements;
In addition, Obama called for passing a financial overhaul bill to protect consumers from industry abuses and make sure consumers have the information they need to make decisions about their money.
Obama said, "We face a deficit of trust…about how Washington works," and asked for reforms that include requiring lobbyists to report each contact with his administration or Congress; setting strict limits on lobbyist contributions to candidates for federal office; and continuing earmark reform by publishing all earmark requests on a single website before there's a vote.
On national security, Obama reiterated a pledge to remove all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by the end of August; pledged to work with Congress and the military to repeal the law that denies gay Americans to serve openly in the military; and said the government should continue working to fix a broken immigration system.