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State of the Union  
 

HR Issues Are Focus of President’s Address to the Nation 
1/29/2010   
 
 

In his first official State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to enact a new jobs bill and to make the economy and job creation his top priorities in 2010.  He also said he would work to restore fiscal responsibility to government.

He pledged to focus on workplace issues – particularly unemployment, equal pay for women, health care reform and immigration reform. 

Among his first proposals was to take $30 billion of the money that financial institutions have repaid to the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and use it to help community banks extend credit to small businesses.

The president also proposed a new small business tax credit that would go to more than 1 million small businesses that hire new workers or raise wages.  “While we're at it, let's also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment and provide a tax incentive for all large businesses, and all small businesses, to invest in new plants and equipment.”

Infrastructure Investments

The president proposed putting more Americans to work by building infrastructure.  “From the first railroads to the interstate highway system, this nation has always been built to compete”, he said.

Obama reiterated his proposal to put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities, and to give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy efficient, which supports clean energy jobs.

In addition, to encourage these and other businesses to stay within the U.S. borders, Obama said it was time to “finally slash the tax breaks” for companies that ship jobs overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs in the United States.

The Pending Jobs Bill

Before recessing for the holidays, the House passed a jobs bill, “The Jobs for Main Street Act,” that includes some of these steps, Obama said.  As the first order of business this year, the president urged the Senate to do the same.

“The Jobs for Main Street Act” (H.R. 2847) is a $150 billion bill designed to stabilize public service jobs such as teachers, firefighters, and police officers.  When the Senate takes up this legislation, private sector job creation incentives are likely to be added. 

Health Care

On health care, the president said this was a problem that is not going away.  As “temperatures cool,” Obama said he wanted everyone to take another look at the plan his administration has proposed.  

The president invited anyone from either party who can offer improvements to the current legislation to come forward with their ideas.

House Democratic leaders hope to bring a scaled-back health care bill to the floor before the chamber leaves for its Presidents’ Day recess on February 11.  We believe this is an extremely optimistic view, especially since many Democrats would prefer to pass a jobs bill as soon as possible.

Pay Equity

The President made a passing reference to the pay equity issue in his address to the nation.  "We are going to crack down on violations of equal pay laws — so that women get equal pay for an equal day’s work," he said.

While both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Equal Pay Act of 1965 make gender-based wage discrimination illegal, the House-passed Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 12/S. 182) remains pending in the Senate.  The legislation would establish unlimited punitive damages against employers for Equal Pay violations.

 

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The next issue of HR Issues Update will be published on Friday, February 12, 2010.