• State of the Union Address
  • March 20, 2015
  • Law Firm: McDonald Hopkins LLC - Cleveland Office
  • This week, President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address. Here is a quick look at what the key components of the speech were:

    Tax Reform

    The president is proposing tax code changes that would raise $320 billion in revenue from wealthy Americans and businesses, while cutting middle class taxes by $175 billion. The plan would eliminate the so-called “trust-fund loophole,” taxing inheritances of high-income Americans. President Obama is also proposing to raise capital-gains tax to 28 percent from 23.8 percent for those making over $500,000 and impose a new fee on big banks. For families, the changes would include a $500 credit for working parents, increased child and education tax credits, and new retirement savings incentives.

    Community College Program

    President Obama unveiled a $60 billion plan over 10 years to provide free community college tuition to students who attend at least half-time and maintain good grades. Schools would also have to meet certain requirements to qualify, and states would have to cover a quarter of the cost. The White House estimates up to 9 million students could save an average of $3,800 per year if every state participates.

    Boosting the capital-gains tax and imposing the fee on financial firms would raise an estimated $320 billion over 10 years to cover the estimated $235 billion cost of the tax credits and the community-college plan.

    Executive Action on Environment

    By executive authority, President Obama imposed new regulations on the oil and gas industry’s emissions of methane. The administration says the goal will be a 45 percent cut in 2012 emission levels in 10 years.

    Defending Executive Action on Immigration Reform

    President Obama used this speech to defend his executive action on immigration reform, threatening to veto legislation that passed in the House that seeks to curtail his efforts and to urge Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

    Infrastructure Investment

    President Obama frequently mentions infrastructure investment as a potential area of common ground between Republicans and Democrats. Obama used the State of the Union to highlight initiatives at several federal agencies aimed at promoting greater private sector capital investment in infrastructure projects. The efforts will help expand access to existing federal grant and loan programs to speed application and approval, officials say.

    Despite increasing talk about the possibility of a gas tax increase, President Obama did not push for such a move.

    Cybersecurity

    President Obama talked extensively about cybersecurity - particularly in light of several high profile cybersecurity breaches over the last few months.

    Obama proposed a 30-day notification law mandating companies to inform consumers promptly after a data breach has been identified. President Obama also renewed his call for consumer privacy "bill of rights" legislation and voice support for proposed legislation of putting new nationwide limits on mining of student data from devices used in K-12 classroom settings.

    Additionally, President Obama proposed legislation to promote greater information sharing between the government and private sector businesses, including liability protection for data they share. He proposed new tools for law enforcement to investigate and prosecute cybercrime.

    Lower Mortgage Insurance Premiums

    Obama highlighted the recent announcement that the Federal Housing Administration would cut insurance rates from 1.35 percent to 0.85 percent. The agency estimates that 2 million U.S. borrowers will save an average of $900 a year if they purchase or refinance homes.

    Fast Track Authority on Trade

    In what was the only drama of the night, President Obama surprised many by using his State of the Union address to call for fast-track trade negotiating authority - something that many Democrats oppose.

    Family and Medical Leave

    Obama called on Congress to pass a bill that would require all U.S. companies to give employees seven days of paid sick leave a year. He also asked for $2 billion to help states start their own paid family and medical leave programs. President Obama also highlighted a presidential memorandum that he signed last week to make it easier for federal employees to take up to six weeks of “maternity” leave by advancing paid sick leave.

    Cheaper and Faster Access to the Internet

    President Obama repeated his call that the Federal Communications Commission should fight state laws that limit broadband service competition. In essence, the president wants the Internet treated like a public utility. The President also highlighted $40 to $50 million in new loans and grants through the Agriculture Department aimed at encouraging rural Internet providers.