• State of the Union Wrap Up
  • February 5, 2014
  • Law Firm: McDonald Hopkins LLC - Cleveland Office
  • On the night of the State of the Union, McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies released a primer covering the key policy components of President Obama's State of the Union address.

    Executive action on minimum wage

    President Obama announced that he is using his executive authority to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for those working on new federal contracts for services.

    Executive action on environmental regulations

    President Obama announced several key new environmental regulations that he will implement using executive authority - effectively doing an end around Congress. These include:

    • New fuel efficiency standards for heavy duty vehicles
    • The President will direct the Administration to work with states, cities and tribes to cut carbon pollution through clean energy and energy efficiency
    • The administration is developing new environmental standards for oil and gas drilling on public lands
    • President Obama will announce new energy efficiency standards
    • Establish an Energy Security Trust Fund to fund research and development for advanced vehicle technologies
    • New tax credits for biofuels

    Income inequality

    President Obama offered several policy proposals aimed at tackling income inequality in the U.S. Among those proposals will be:

    • The President proposed increasing the federal minimum wage. The President wants to work with Congress to pass the Harkin-Miller bill that would increase the federal minimum wage for all workers to $10.10 an hour
    • The President called for the extension of benefits for the long-term unemployed. These benefits expired at the end of 2013 and Senate Democrats have been working - unsuccessfully so far - on getting them extended
    • The President discussed his efforts aimed at encouraging job creation in low-income communities. This effort is aimed at revitalizing high-poverty communities across the country by attracting private investment, improving affordable housing, expanding educational opportunities, providing tax incentives for hiring workers and investing in these areas, reducing violence, and assisting local leaders in navigating Federal programs and cutting through red tape
    • The President announced an effort to increase job-training opportunities particularly for low-income youth, low-income adults and the unemployed
    • The President urged Congress to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit
    • The President urged Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to protect LGBT Americans from workplace discrimination
    • Removing retirement tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans

    Creating a starter savings program for middle class americans

    The President announced he is using his executive authority to create "myRA" (my Retirement Account) - a new "simple, safe and affordable" starter retirement savings account that will be available through employers to help Americans save for retirement. This account would be offered through a familiar Roth IRA account and will be backed by the US government.

    Energy and the environment

    President Obama proposed new incentives for medium and heavy-duty trucks that run on alternative fuels like natural gas.
    The President called on Congress to work with the Administration and state and local governments to create Sustainable Shale Gas Growth Zones.

    Immigration reform

    With Republican leadership in the House expected to unveil their principles for immigration reform shortly, President Obama called for a fix to our broken immigration system. He will call for cracking down on employers who hire undocumented workers and for providing a path to citizenship for immigrants who pay a fine, pay their taxes, learn English and pass a background check.

    Tax reform

    President Obama called for a "grand bargain" that pairs comprehensive tax reform coupled with new spending on infrastructure - an offering the White House says is an olive branch to Republicans and the business community.

    Global trade

    President Obama announced that he is working towards a 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership and has opened talks towards a comprehensive agreement with the European Union. President Obama will urge Congress to update its guidance and role in trade by passing the Trade Promotion Authority.

    Reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

    President Obama is seeking to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Working with Congress, President Obama will propose four core principles for reform: 1 - putting private capital at the center of the housing finance system, 2 - end Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's failed business model, 3 - ensure widespread access to safe and affordable mortgages, and 4 - support affordability for creditworthy first-time buyers and access to affordable rental housing for middle class families.