Washington — In his address to the nation Tuesday night, President Obama called for a rebirth of manufacturing, a fairer tax system and a stronger community college system.
Most Connecticut lawmakers agreed with the president’s priorities, especially his emphasis on manufacturing and education.
“The president’s focus on manufacturing, energy and work force development echoes what we have been attempting to do locally in Connecticut with our Manufacturing Job Match Initiative and in Washington with the House Democrats ‘Make it in America’ agenda,” said Rep. John Larson, D-1st-District.
Before the speech, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, said she hoped the president would “continue to call for smart, targeted investments in infrastructure, education and job training, as well as the need to revive our manufacturing base.”
Rep. Chris Murphy, D-5th District, said “it was music to my ears” that the president began his speech by talking about manufacturing.
And, Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said the president’s agenda “fits very nicely with what’s going on in Connecticut.”
In his “blueprint for an economy built to last,” the president expanded on his populist theme of a “new nationalism” that he talked about in a recent speech in Kansas.
“We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by,” Obama said, “Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”
In his third State of Union Address, the president called for those who earn more than $1 million a year to pay a tax rate of at least 30 percent and to forgo a host of deductions.
“Do we want to keep these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Or do we want to keep our investments in everything else — like education and medical research; a strong military and care for our veterans? Because if we’re serious about paying down our debt, we can’t do both,” he said.
Larson said, “the president appealed to fairness and struck the right tone.”
Murphy also backed the president’s call for changes in the tax system.
“The president is right,” he said. “Millionaires shouldn’t be paying a lower proportion of their income in taxes than middle-class Americans.”
But Murphy also said he thinks it unlikely that Congress will move to raise taxes on the rich.
“I don’t think the president is going to get much help from Republicans on tax reform, but that doesn’t mean he should stop talking about the unfairness of our current tax system,” he said.
As part of his education initiative, Obama called for an expansion of the community college system and new partnerships between businesses and community colleges.
The president also warned colleges and universities to stop raising tuition costs or they would lose federal funding.
“Let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down,” the president said.
Because of tuition increases, students at the University of Connecticut and Connecticut’s four regional public universities and 12 community colleges will pay more for their education this year.
Board of Regents spokeswoman Colleen Flanagan, speaking before the State of the Union, noted that the university system’s tuition and fee increase was “well below the historic average.”
Obama also chided Congress for partisan wars that have resulted in gridlock.
“None of these reforms can happen unless we also lower the temperature in this town,” he said.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, also praised the president’s call to fix a “broken” Washington.
“Tonight, the President unveiled an optimistic and ambitious agenda for our country,” Malloy said in an emailed news release after the speech. “He called on Congress to end its partisan bickering and obstruction and pass meaningful legislation to bolster our recovery and accelerate economic growth. I couldn’t agree more.”
Courtney called the president’s appeal for national unity “very, very effective.”
In a statement, Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., did not comment on any aspect of the president’s speech and instead renewed his call for fiscal discipline.
“Now that we have heard the president’s State of the Union message, Congress should not let this year pass without taking serious action on the greatest threat to our nation’s economic recovery — the ever-growing deficit,” Lieberman said.