The economy, job growth and ‘smarter government’ were the main focuses of local legislators following President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night.
Obama urged a deeply divided Congress to embrace his plans to use government money to create jobs and strengthen the nation’s middle class. He declared Republican ideas for reducing the deficit “even worse” than the unpalatable deals Washington had to stomach during his first term and conceded economic revival is an “unfinished task” while claiming clear progress.
Statements were issued by Republican U.S. Rep Glenn “GT” Thompson, Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, Democratic Pa. Sen. Bob Casey and Republican Pa. Sen. Toomey.
Thompson, whose Fifth congressional district includes the southeastern corner of Crawford County:
“With the unemployment rate hovering at close to the same rate it was in February of 2009 and the economy all but stalled during the last three months of 2012, the president made the right decision to pivot his focus back to jobs and the economy. Stunted economic growth has not only had a negative impact on job creation, it also undermines America’s ability to adequately invest in many of the priorities the president mentioned, including our shared goal of fostering and retaining a qualified and trained workforce.
“The president’s call for ‘not a bigger government’ but a ‘smarter government’ is welcome news. In my view this is the only approach that will permit the nation to invest in shared priorities and grow the economy, but without leaving a legacy of debt for future generations.
“I had hoped to hear from the president a pro-growth plan that will expand opportunity for all Americans and generate revenues needed to get Washington back to fiscal solvency. Unfortunately, the president merely acknowledged the nation’s escalating spending path and combed over a record of persistently high national unemployment, while once again failing to offer concrete solutions to achieve fiscal balance and sustained growth.
“I will continue to work with both parties to find solutions to the nation’s challenges, but tonight I’m left unfulfilled by the lack detail and direction put forward by the president.”
Kelly, whose Third congressional district includes most of Crawford County:
“The president says we don’t need a bigger government, we need a smarter one. I couldn’t agree more. But his rhetoric does not match his record and one need not look further than the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act to see this administration’s aggressive effort to grow the size and scope of government. Additionally, his administration has pursued an aggressive regulatory agenda that is strangling job growth across our nation.
“I was also disappointed that a plan was not outlined to get our nation’s debt and deficit reduction under control. Our reckless fiscal policy is perhaps the biggest challenge this country faces and despite what the president has said, his administration has failed to show any leadership. We cannot continue to tax and spend our way back to prosperity. If our spending problem is not fixed, we will bankrupt our country for our children and grandchildren.
“One part of the president’s speech I was glad to hear is the administration’s commitment to early childhood education and the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math). While I want to see specifics before commenting further, there should be bipartisan agreement to develop an aggressive policy to pursue both of these goals.
“My new assignment on the Committee on Ways and Means will give me the opportunity to work with members of both parties toward long-term solutions that are facing America today — including tax and spending reform that can provide this country with a true turnaround plan.”
“I was gratified that the president made jobs the focus of his address. While the economy has made good progress, there is no doubt that more needs to be done. I was particularly grateful that he recognized the need for investments in the manufacturing sector. I have fought to level the playing field for Pennsylvania manufacturers and have called for investments in manufacturing initiatives like the Workforce Investment Act programs, Research and Development Tax Credit, the National Export Initiative and the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership. It is imperative that Republicans and Democrats work together on a balanced approach to reduce the deficit while making smart investments in manufacturing, education, small business and R&D that will continue to create jobs.”
“I was glad the president tonight addressed both the need to bring our out-of-control spending and deficits under control and that he spent a lot of time focusing on the need for economic growth and job creation. I disagree about the idea that we ought to raise taxes yet again. But if the president is willing to look at some of the areas where we can curb spending, I’d be delighted to work with him to help put us on a sustainable fiscal path. The president talked about the opportunity for tax reform — I couldn’t agree more that there’s a chance to really generate economic growth and job creation through tax reform.
“We could start with repeal of the medical device tax, an idea that has broad bipartisan support in the House and the Senate. The medical device tax is job-crushing and costing us thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania. Repealing it would be very pro-growth.
“And finally on the energy front, the president spent a lot of time talking about energy. Energy is really, in many ways, the key to strong economic growth. We could start — really kick-starting — our energy profile by improving the Keystone Pipeline, creating the thousands and thousands of jobs — including many in Pennsylvania — that would go toward the development of that pipeline and helping North American oil to flow.
“So there are many areas where we can work together and help to restore fiscal discipline, put us on a path to a balanced budget and get this economy moving again. And I look forward to working with anyone in either party to help us achieve those goals.”