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What does the State of the Union Address Mean for Business?

Carmen Hickerson on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 12:00:00 am

President Obama laid out his agenda in his State of the Union address declaring 2014 would be a ‘year of action.’ Despite his promise to do whatever he needs to do to move the country forward whether Congress is willing to or not, it is unclear exactly what the administration can, or will, implement without Congressional approval.  So what should businesses anticipate from the White House in the coming year?

Workforce:

  • He assigned Joe Biden the task of a top-to-bottom review of the government’s job-training programs.
  • He asked businesses to take the lead in hiring the long-term unemployed and creating more job apprenticeship programs.
  • He introduced a plan to start manufacturing innovation institutes and pledged to assist manufacturers with finding skilled employees.
  • He is planning a summit on family-friendly workplaces.
  • He flexed his muscles on minimum wage by indicating he will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay at least $10.10 per hour and strongly encouraged the Congress and/or state and local governments to raise the minimum wage across the board.
  • He offered two proposals to address what experts have called a “retirement-savings crisis” - automatic IRA’s where workers opt-out rather than opt-in; and directing the Treasury to create a new government-backed retirement plan for small-dollar savers to be offered through employers.

 

Regulation:

  • He promised to ‘streamline the permitting process’ for key infrastructure projects.
  • Congress – with some help from the Supreme Court – has already given the President the authority he needs to roll out aggressive regulations on coal-fired power plants.  He has directed the EPA to present draft rules by June 1.

 

Taxes:

  • He once again asked Congress to pass tax reform, however his proposal falls short of details and fails to address what most businesses are looking for.  He says his proposal would simplify the corporate tax code and use revenue generated from the transition to a new tax system to finance infrastructure projects. He also says he would use money generated by tax reform to pay for deficit reduction.  But with a lack of specificity on what ‘reform’ actually means it’s hard to understand how the new revenue would be generated.

 

Immigration:

  • He once again called on Congress to pass immigration reform, although he spent very little time talking about the issue, presumably to give the House the room it needs to maneuver.  However, House Speaker John Boehner has indicated the Republicans in the House are hesitant to pass any type of reforms because they ‘do not trust the administration’ to enforce border security and law enforcement.

 

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