Federal Relations

February 13, 2013

Obama Delivers State of the Union

Last night, President Barack Obama used his fifth State of the Union address to lay out an ambitious second term policy agenda.  The president called for comprehensive immigration reform, managing college costs, raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour, universal access to preschool for all four year olds, gun safety, climate change, $50 billion for infrastructure spending, partnerships to promote cleaner energy and improved manufacturing, a free trade zone with Europe,and winding down the war in Afghanistan. Obama called on Congress, and specifically Congressional Republicans, to allow his proposals on issues ranging from taxes and entitlements to guns and immigration to move forward.

Once again, the president addressed the rising costs of higher education in the State of the Union. Specifically, he called upon colleges and universities to do more to make college affordable, and going further, Obama called upon Congress to address this issue in the upcoming Higher Education Act reauthorization. He asserted that measures such as affordability and value should determine which colleges should receive federal aid. In addition, the president announced that the Administration is releasing today the long-waited “College Scorecard” to compare schools based on cost and value.

Additionally, Obama called for renewed bipartisan efforts to develop a package of spending cuts and tax hikes to replace the $85 billion in automatic fiscal 2013 spending cuts scheduled to begin March 1. The president urged Congress to pursue a combination of spending cuts and new tax revenue to reduce the deficit rather than across-the-the-board spending cuts, and he suggested a corporate tax overhaul could provide funding for new efforts to boost the economy. Without a deal, Obama warned, furloughs would occur that would undermine the economic recovery, hurt military and domestic programs and “cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs.” Obama did not propose changing the spending caps set by the 2011 law and said “nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime.” But with little room to maneuver under the spending caps, Obama made clear that the tax code would be at the center of his efforts to broker deals with the House and Senate Republicans to tackle the deficit, spur growth and strengthen the middle class. Congress must act before March 27 – the expiration of the current stopgap for the CR.